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U.S. News and Aetna Launch Healthiest Communities Rankings

Your ZIP code has a greater impact on your health than your genetic code. But how healthy is your community? The Aetna Foundation has joined with U.S. News & World Report to create a new and innovative way to answer that question.

The “Healthiest Communities” project, announced on March 26, evaluates nearly 3,000 communities nationwide across 10 categories – from education and population health to infrastructure and economy – to show which places provide their residents the greatest opportunity to live a healthy life. The rankings also offer insight into the best approaches for improving public health, which can be shared and implemented across the country.

“Our goal in creating these rankings is not just to recognize communities that are already making significant progress toward building healthy communities, but also to inspire change in the way communities think about and pursue improvements in public health,” said Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini. “While no two communities are the same, all communities can learn about best practices in their own backyard and across the country, then apply these lessons to improve the health of their residents.”

In addition to providing an overall ranking, Healthiest Communities creates four peer groupings based on population and economy: urban high-performing, urban up-and-coming, rural high-performing and rural up-and-coming. An Honor Roll highlights the 36 top-performing communities in each peer group from the nine U.S. Census regions.

Some of the key findings in the 2018 rankings:

  • The top five Healthiest Communities scored above the national average in at least nine of the 10 categories evaluated. Falls Church city, VA, was No. 1, ranking in the top three communities nationally for education, economy and public safety.
    Virginia and Colorado communities dominated the top 10: Colorado had four counties on the list and Virginia had three.
  • Communities in those two states boast an average of 62 primary care doctors for every 100 residents, and an average life expectancy that is more than one year longer than the national average.
  • The top 100 communities in each peer group range from Keweenaw County, MI – a county with a total population of just over 2,000 – to Middlesex County, MA, which is home to more than 1.5 million people. Rural counties stand out in the community vitality category, which measures such factors as voter participation and homeownership rates. Up-and-coming economies perform strongly in the food and nutrition category, which includes access to large supermarkets and fewer cases of obesity and diabetes.
  • Communities that may not be at the top on a national stage stand out among their regional peers. Among the places that did not rank in the top 500 but made the Honor Roll for its peer groups: Lexington city, VA; Orleans County, VT; and Pickett County, TN.
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