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As the country navigates through a more controlled phase of the Pandemic, Los Alamos County, New Mexico ranked third in healthiest US municipality year in a row.
Located approximately 40 miles from Sante Fe, the county is home to canyons and mesas connected by a 94 km network of trails, 13 developed public parks and an expansive golf course. The community of more than 19,000 residents ranked highest in the housing, population health and infrastructure categories according to US News & World Report’s annual ranking of the healthiest communities, released Wednesday.
Los Alamos County is known for its vast, breathtaking mountain ranges the first community to take first place more than twice since US News reportedly introduced the ranking in 2018.
The county and the four runners-up – Fall Church, Virginia; Douglas County, Colorado; Morgan County, Utah; and Carver County, Minnesota – all underperformed in the housing subcategory.
“A healthy environment is part of what definitely makes[Los Alamos County]a healthy community,” Los Alamos County Councilor Sara Scott, who was not involved in the report, previously told CNN. “People have the opportunity and interest to get out, to use our mountains, hiking trails, bike rides, horseback riding (and) golfing.”
As Los Alamos County ranked #1 in 2020, Scott said that having a giving community that takes health and safety seriously is what makes the county so healthy overall.
These have included donations related to pandemics, the manufacture of volunteer masks, up-to-date communications between health officials and citizens about safety precautions, and keeping the public compliant with the county’s multifaceted public health response. Census responses have also helped county officials identify needs and priorities, Scott said.
The top five places in the environmental rankings went to Florence County, Wisconsin; Iron County, Michigan; Forest County, Wisconsin; Summit County, Colorado; and Broadwater County, Montana. This category takes into account factors such as Air quality, drinking water safety, amount of land area covered by trees, and how many people lived within half a mile of a park.
US News and the University of Missouri Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems based the ranking on how nearly 3,000 US communities performed on 89 health and health-related metrics across 10 categories: Community Vitality, Equity, Economics, Education, Environment, Nutrition and nutrition, population health, housing, public safety and infrastructure. For each metric, the researchers scaled the values for each community relative to the average for that metric.
Analyzed some tools County Covid-19 case, death and vaccination rates. Communities with higher cumulative deaths from Covid-19 (per 100,000 population) had lower post-secondary education rates, lower life expectancy and lower proportions of adults who had recently engaged in recreational physical activity, the report found.
Communities with higher proportions of people who had earned at least an associate’s degree tended to have higher rates of Covid-19 vaccination and refresher courses. Communities with higher vaccination rates also had lower death rates from Covid-19.
“What I’ve learned in conversations with healthcare and public health experts is that … the kind of public health infrastructure and public health confidence you need to have for a pandemic is something you start with, not building at the time of the pandemic, but 10 years earlier,” Alex Matthews, then data editor at US News & World Report, told CNN in 2021.
In 2021, many counties had “really high immunization rates also scored well in our nutrition category. And those two things don’t seem to be related (at first glance),” Matthews said, adding that in some communities, a fruit and vegetable recipe program connects local farmers with families who need affordable access to produce.
“What ends up happening is years later, health officials come to you and say, ‘Hey, we need you to wear masks’ or ‘Hey, we need you to get that shot,’ think to yourself , ‘Yes of course. These people invest in my health; You invested in it every day. So I will listen to them and trust them.’”
The top four communities in the mental health category were Fairfax County, Virginia; Santa Clara County, California; San Mateo County, California; and Honolulu County, Hawaii.
“Geographically, communities in the DMV area (Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia) score highly in this portion of our assessment, with Fairfax County leading at #1,” said Chris Wolf, senior data analyst at US News.
Community interventions for “physical health and well-being can also impact mental health because they can limit or support the way individuals move through their day and interact with their community,” Susan L. Polan, associate executive director for public affairs and advocacy at the American Public Health Association, previously told CNN. Polan was not involved in the research. In the report, Lower mental health scores were associated with higher rates of poverty, smoking and youth birth rates, and lower life expectancy.
According to the report, US News creates the rankings to inform community health officials about the best policies and practices for productive, healthy living.
When looking for potential homes, people should assess whether the area is “a cohesive community with easy access to healthy food, safe places to play and walk, good schools, a diverse population and leaders, affordable housing, public transportation, and a wide range of amenities.” other services,” Polan said. Local governments interested in investing in communities and economically healthy, locally engaged businesses are other good signs of healthy neighborhoods, she added.
The Healthest Communities project is a result of support from CVS Health and the University of Missouri’s Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems, a community health research organization. The researchers based the ranking on data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Census Bureau and Environmental Protection Agency.