Two older adults sit on a park bench in San Jose
Green space was a factor in San Jose's overall ranking in a recent nationwide health survey of cities. Residents Lois and David Krueger enjoy Alum Rock Park in this file photo.

San Jose has made the top 25 in a nationwide healthiest city survey, but advocates say deep inequities still persist.

San Jose ranks 22nd in a study compiled by personal finance outlet WalletHub, which pitted 182 of the nation’s most populous cities against each other on various health metrics, such as available health care, healthy foods, fitness and green space. San Francisco topped the charts, followed by Honolulu, Hawaii in second.

Five more California cities beat out San Jose in the rankings: San Diego made fourth, Irvine came in 10th, Los Angeles is in 11th place and Huntington Beach and Glendale were 14th and 20th, respectively.

Health care advocates said the rankings leave out key details on wealth and inequity, which can also affect residents’ health. Health Trust spokesperson Deena Riddle said bridging the gap in health equity includes more factors than those in the study.

“By delving deeper into these complexities, we can chart a course toward a more equitable future for all members of our community, ensuring that every individual has the opportunity to thrive within San Jose’s vibrant fabric,” Riddle told San José Spotlight.

For example, Riddle said some of the metrics used to measure access to healthy foods, such as number of farmers markets, does not actually correlate to food insecurity in the area.

She also pointed to the city’s Tree Equity Score, which measures how well a city is providing tree coverage to all its residents. San Jose had a score of 77 out of 100 in this regard, but could diversify its coverage throughout the city.

Another report last year ranked San Jose as the nation’s sixth greenest city, though environmental activists said the city should invest more in environmental initiatives.

Bob Brownstein, strategic advisor for Working Partnerships USA, echoed that there are other factors not considered in the report. Housing stability and employment were not weighed, but Brownstein said both can affect a person’s health.

Being homeless and in the throes of housing instability are major social determinants of health, Brownstein said. All of these factors make it more difficult for people to receive health care or have healthier lifestyles. Brownstein, who been working to improve the region’s health equity since 1979, said bridging health inequities has required consistent effort.

“It’s hard to think of any other sociological events that are worse for someone’s health than being thrown on the street,” he told San Jose Spotlight.

The Silicon Valley Pain Index, an annual report measuring inequality in the region, has consistently found that a majority of the region’s wealth is held by a fraction of residents, while most struggle with high costs of living. San Jose leads the nation in youth homelessness and has one of the nation’s highest costs of living, especially when it comes to housing.

Working Partnerships USA and The Health Trust are part of a coalition of organizations working with Santa Clara County to research and implement a health equity agenda, which includes studying health equity countywide and making recommendations to bridge disparities.

“It’s a constant effort to make sure we have as strong a safety net as possible,” Brownstein told San José Spotlight. “We’ve got a very good one, but it’s not so good that we can say we don’t have to do anything anymore.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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