The Healthiest Communities Honor Roll

U.S. News shines a spotlight on 36 top-performing communities across the country.

By Deidre McPhillips Data EditorMarch 26, 2018, at 12:01 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

Healthiest Communities Honor Roll

Kayakers prepare to launch at Frisco Bay Marina in Frisco, Colo. (George Rose/Getty Images)

America's geographic diversity is part of what makes it beautiful, but it can also be a driver of health inequality.

That idea is at the core of the U.S. News Healthiest Communities Honor Roll, which highlights communities within specific geographic divisions that best serve their residents in the face of often complex health-related challenges. This focused look at places of varying economic means and population densities brings a diverse set of communities to the forefront, allowing them to serve as examples to areas facing similar hurdles.

Variations in physical terrain and access to natural resources can create advantages and limitations across the U.S. Communities in Pacific states, for example, score more than four times better than those in South Atlantic states in a U.S. Department of Agriculture index measuring the strength of local natural amenities that may influence physical and mental health, including sunshine and water.

Meanwhile, underscoring the connection between other location-linked factors and health, urban studies researcher Richard Florida noted in a 2011 post the correlations between the fitness levels of American cities and their affluence, as well as educational attainment, job types and reported well-being.

"Healthy or unhealthy lifestyles are not simply the result of good or bad individual decisions," he wrote. "They are inextricably tied up with the nature and structure of our culture and society."

Location and population affect health care delivery, too. Academic discussion of the topic can be traced at least back to research published in Science Magazine in 1973. Since medical care is "delivered predominantly by local physicians, variations tend to reflect differences in the way particular individuals and groups practice medicine," authors John Wennberg and Alan Gittelsohn wrote in reference to hospital service areas in the state of Vermont.

Showcasing the health-related success of communities across the country, the Healthiest Communities Honor Roll encompasses four top-performing communities in each of the U.S. Census Bureau's nine regional divisions, classifying them based on their urban-rural status as tied to population density and the robustness of their economies.

The distinction is based on a community's performance across the same 80 measures and 10 categories used in the overall U.S. News Healthiest Communities assessment of nearly 3,000 counties and county equivalents.

The 36 Honor Roll communities range from the rural and mountainous Routt County, Colorado, to the bustling Morris County, New Jersey, which lies about an hour away from Manhattan in New York. They include Island County, Washington, and San Mateo County, California, in the West, along with Washington County, Tennessee, in the South and Bennington County, Vermont, in the Northeast. Their populations vary from roughly 2,000 people to nearly 1 million, according to data used in the U.S. News analysis, with a median household income gap of more than $80,000. Yet together, they boast an average life expectancy of 81 years and health insurance coverage of more than 90 percent.

Explore the 36 places that made the U.S. News Healthiest Communities Honor Roll:

Deidre McPhillips, Data Editor

Deidre McPhillips is a data editor at U.S. News. You can find her on Twitter or email her at dm... READ MORE  »Deidre McPhillips is a data editor at U.S. News. You can find her on Twitter or email her at dmcphillips@usnews.com.

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