How Does Your City Rank?

When eyeing a new place to live, you can investigate how good the public schools are, how environmentally-friendly the town is and how its inhabitants lean politically. Now you can check out a city's overall heath thanks to County Health Rankings, a collaborative nonprofit study project between the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a health care research think tank in Princeton, N.J. You can easily access information ranging from air pollutant levels to teen birth rate to liquor store density for nearly every county across the US. Based on measuring how long people in each county live (mortality) as well as how healthy they feel (morbidity), the study serves as an indicator of each county's quality of life.

Here are some fun facts:
  • Good news for the residents of Chittenden, Vt.; Morgan, Utah; Nantucket, Mass.; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Grafton, N.H. You guys currently live in the five places in the U.S. with low pollution, poverty, premature death rates, preventable hospitalizations and adult obesity rates. You could teach your pals in Holmes, Miss.; Latimer, Okla.; Perry, Ala.; Madison, La.; and Lee, S.C.- the five least healthy counties in the nation-a thing or two about their bodies.

  • Urban and suburban areas on average are healthier than their rural counterparts. Approximately half of the healthiest counties in the nation are either urban or suburban whereas 84 percent of the least healthy counties are rural.

  • Grocery stores play a key role. The least healthy counties in the U.S. had far fewer food options than the healthiest ones. County Health Rankings reports that two-thirds of the least healthy counties don't have a grocery store in their county at all whereas that number drops to half for healthy counties.

  • Health and happiness are related, but not as closely as one may think. When comparing County Health Rankings to Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index's list of the 20 happiest cities in America, some of the country's happiest spots aren't necessarily the healthiest. With the exception of Honolulu, Hawaii, none of the top five happiest places - Boulder, Colo.; Holland-Grand Haven, Mich.; Provo-Orem, Utah; and Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Calif. - were deemed the healthiest counties in their own state much less the nation.

  • If you want to live longer, vote Democrat. Taking a peek at an electoral map from the 2008 presidential election, Democrats claimed the 13 healthiest states in the U.S. except for Utah whereas Republicans claimed the 13 least healthy states.
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