What can we learn from the nation's healthiest communities?

September 22, 2020 

What type of neighborhood do you live in? In a densely populated city, or in a more spacious suburb? Close to a supermarket with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, or far from a grocery store? Near a small community park, or somewhere with limited walkability? 

Factors surrounding where you live can greatly impact your health. Recognizing this, U.S. News and World Report publishes its annual Healthiest Communities Rankings with support from the Aetna Foundation.

These rankings are a free and open-access public health data analysis tool featuring some of the healthiest communities in the U.S. and the various conditions that make them a healthy place to live. Today marks the release of the 2020 rankings.

As an important resource for public health professionals, the rankings are based on an evaluation of nearly 3,000 communities across 81 health-related metrics that drive community health, grouped into 10 categories: 

  • Community vitality
  • Equity
  • Economy
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Food and nutrition
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Infrastructure and public safety 

A new component of this year’s rankings: COVID-related data highlighting communities that have responded well to the pandemic. Together, these categories showcase the role social determinants of health and emergency preparedness and response play in community health and wellness. Professionals and community members can view the rankings to identify where their local community stands.

While the rankings themselves serve as an important resource, the Healthiest Communities website also provides an interactive data explorer tool that brings this year’s data to life and enables public health professionals to critically analyze the data from their own communities to identify key barriers to better health.

The framework emphasizes best practices from communities that encourage healthier living for their residents and how these practices can be used to improve health interventions within our own place of residence. 

It also informs those of us who are tackling specific health issues on how to be intentional in the planning and implementation of health projects and identify where resources can be leveraged to cultivate a healthier place of residence for all. 

The 2020 top five healthiest communities:

  • Los Alamos County, New Mexico
  • Douglas County, Colorado
  • Falls Church City, Virginia
  • Broomfield County, Colorado
  • Routt County, Colorado

Among the states, Colorado ranks high on the list, with six counties placed in the top 10. Overall, Iowa has the largest number of communities in the top 500, with 63 of the state’s 99 counties represented.

While placing high in the rankings is something to be proud of, communities that rank lower can view this information as an opportunity. Identifying similar communities that have made advancements in addressing health inequities provides the chance to conduct outreach and connect with other professionals.

“These rankings provide an opportunity for our nation to look to those who are further along in addressing the social determinants of health,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “Identifying where improvement is needed in societal systems affecting our health enables us to learn from one another and create informed, data-driven solutions.”

The 2020 Healthiest Communities rankings continue to provide essential data needed to support community organizations, leaders and residents pushing for better health. Find out where your community stands. 

And tune in to U.S. News & World Report's Community Health Leadership Forum. This webinar series offers fresh insights on the rankings and features sessions and discussions with leading voices in health-related sectors. Register for the first in series, happening at 1 p.m. today!


To view the original piece, please visit Public Health Newswire

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