Douglas County, Colorado came out on top as the healthiest community in America, according to the 2019 Healthiest Communities rankings by US News & World Report, released in collaboration with the Aetna Foundation.
In an evaluation of the "community health" of more than 3,000 communities across the United States, Douglas County, Colorado came out on top as the healthiest community in America, according to the 2019 Healthiest Communities rankings by US News & World Report, released in collaboration with the Aetna Foundation.
The report analyzes 81 health-related metrics in 10 categories, from education and population health to infrastructure and environment. In addition to assessing which communities offer their citizens the greatest opportunity to live a productive, healthy life, the project serves as a tool to inform residents, health care leaders, and elected officials about policies and best practices that help drive better health outcomes.
Douglas County is one of 7 communities in Colorado that rank among the top 20 healthiest communities. Broomfield County (5), Chaffee County (11), Routt County (14), San Miguel County (17), Pitkin County (19) and Boulder County (20) are the others. In those 7 counties, nearly all adults exercise and only about a quarter missed their annual wellness checkup. Across all of its counties, Colorado has the highest average score in the country in the environment category, which includes measures of natural amenities and air and water quality.
Iowa has the strongest presence in the Healthiest Communities rankings overall, with 62 counties landing among the top 500. Average community scores put Iowa among the top 10 states in 4 of the 10 broad categories assessed, including Population Health and Housing. Iowa’s top-performing community, No. 26 Bremer County, takes top scores in walkability and low toxic releases.
Eighty-one counties are new to this year’s top 500 communities, including Montour County, Pennsylvania which improved in the Population Health category. Bath County, Virginia saw significant progress in Education, and Sweetwater County, Wyoming rose in Environment.
Of the 81 metrics included in the Healthiest Communities analysis, diabetes
prevalence and smoking rate have the strongest correlation to life expectancy. According to Healthiest Communities calculations, Hawaii counties perform the best in the country in life expectancy, with an average of 81.15 years. At 8.7%, the average smoking rate across Utah counties is the lowest in the country. The rate is about half the national average and about 3 percentage points lower than in California, the state with the second-lowest rate.
Poor self-reported mental health has about the same negative link to life expectancy as diabetes, smoking and physical inactivity. The same metric also is linked to higher rates of poverty at the community level. Communities in Nebraska take 16 of the top 100 spots in the Mental Health subcategory, including Cherry County and Morrill County, which both score among the top 10 in the subcategory. The state has averaged 26 deaths due to suicide, alcohol-related disease and drug overdoses per 100,000 population; only New York state has averaged fewer “deaths of despair,” with 25 per 100,000 population.
“Through the Healthiest Communities initiative, US News expands on 3 decades of expertise in measuring health care quality to assess how social determinants affect community health,” Eric Gertler, executive chairman of U.S. News & World Report said in a press release about the findings. “Our second-year endeavor with the Aetna Foundation combines high-quality data with the power of journalism to engage communities about where they can improve and how they can learn from each other.”
The Healthiest Communities rankings, underwritten by the Aetna Foundation, are part of a $100 million commitment by CVS Health and its affiliates to making community health and wellness central to the company’s charge for a better world. The new Building Healthier Communities initiative, which will be funded over 5 years by CVS Health and the CVS Health and Aetna foundations, builds upon the outstanding tradition of community investment by CVS Health and Aetna and advances CVS Health’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.
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