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CVS Health, U.S. News & World Report unleash 5th healthiest communities rankings

The new edition explores factors related to natural disasters and climate equity.

Where are the healthiest communities located?

U.S. News & World Report, in collaboration with CVS Health, released the fifth annual edition of the Healthiest Communities rankings. Amid the growing threat of climate change, the 2022 edition incorporates new data on environmental health and is accompanied by an analysis showing which types of natural disasters pose the greatest threats to various racial and ethnic populations.

For the third year in a row, Los Alamos County, N.M., takes the top spot in the rankings. Falls Church, Va., is No. 2 while Douglas County, Colo., is No. 3. Completing the top five are Morgan County, Utah and Carver County, Minn., at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. Each of the top three counties in this year's rankings has been ranked No. 1 in a previous edition of Healthiest Communities.

[Read more: CVS Health, Unite Us launch platform to address social determinants of health

New this year in the environment category of the rankings, data on natural disasters from FEMA’s National Risk Index highlights the threats faced by communities across the country. According to an accompanying U.S. News & World Report analysis of the index and U.S. Census Bureau data, Indigenous people are the most at risk from natural hazards. They have higher risks when it comes to sustained periods of colder temperatures, droughts, river and stream flooding, and wildfires compared with other racial and ethnic groups.

"The data behind the Healthiest Communities rankings provides a deep dive into the state of health equity in our country," said Kim Castro, editor and chief content officer at U.S. News & World Report. "By examining data on natural hazards, we can see how various demographic populations are affected by the risks tied to their environment."

The Healthiest Communities project includes additional resources alongside the rankings. For the third year in a row, county-level coronavirus data on metrics, such as cases, deaths and vaccination rates, are available through the COVID-19 and Your Community data hub. Along with the analysis of demographics and disaster risk, U.S. News & World Report is publishing editorial pieces that explore the reasons for Los Alamos County's continued success as America's Healthiest Community, and highlighting the top-performing counties by key rankings metrics and categories, such as population health, public safety, education, mental health and life expectancy.

[Read more: CVS Health to invest $15.3M in affordable housing in San Antonio]  

“We all know the significant impact that social determinants have on the health and well-being of individuals and our local communities,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, vice president and chief health equity officer at CVS Health. “The data we collect helps us determine the best way to collaborate with communities to develop sustainable solutions and advance health equity in a way that meets their unique needs.”

Earlier this year, CVS Health launched Health Zones, an initiative that provides concentrated local investments designed to reduce health disparities and advance health equity in under-resourced communities across the country. Health Zones is an integrated approach to addressing six key social determinants of health: housing, education, access to food, labor, transportation and healthcare access. The Health Zones initiative is now active in five markets nationwide: Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio;  Fresno, Calif.;  Hartford, Conn.; and Phoenix, with plans to expand into more cities later this year. Working with trusted national and local partners, CVS Health is addressing community healthcare needs and ensuring at-risk communities have access to resources and opportunities that can help them thrive.

[Read more: CVS Health expands free health screening program in 2 states]

The following are additional key findings from the 2022 edition of Healthiest Communities, including the connections between mental health, overall well-being and social determinants of health:

  • Four of the top 20 Healthiest Communities are in Northern Virginia: Falls Church (No. 2), Loudoun County (No. 12), Arlington County (No. 13) and Fairfax County (No. 17); and
  • The states with the highest median overall scores in the analysis are Rhode Island, Minnesota and Iowa, while the lowest are found in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.

[Read more: CVS Health launches CVS Health Virtual Primary Care]

Communities with lower scores in the mental health subcategory tend to have lower life expectancies, lower median household incomes and lower labor force participation, as well as higher rates of poverty.

Rural communities are more likely to have higher shares of adults reporting frequent mental distress, and urban communities are more likely to have higher shares of Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with depression.

The Healthiest Communities rankings and accompanying analysis are based on an evaluation of approximately 3,000 communities nationwide across 89 health and health-related metrics in 10 categories, such as education, population health, infrastructure and environment. The project serves as a tool to inform residents, community health leaders and elected officials about policies and best practices for better health outcomes by assessing which communities offer their citizens the greatest opportunity to live a productive, healthy life.

[Read more: CVS Health, Morning Consult survey shares increasing mental health concerns amongst individuals]

To compile the rankings and create the overall Healthiest Communities project, U.S. News & World Report partnered with the University of Missouri Extension Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems, a research institution skilled in community health assessment. Overall, the rankings are based on metrics drawn from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

2022 Healthiest Communities - Top 10 (see the full rankings here):

  • Los Alamos County, N.M.;
  • Falls Church, Va.;
  • Douglas County, Colo.;
  • Morgan County, Utah;
  • Carver County, Minn.;
  • Sioux County, Iowa;
  • Ozaukee County, Wis.;
  • Hamilton County, Ind.;
  • Broomfield County, Colo.; and
  • Delaware County, Ohio.

Top 5 Communities for Health Outcomes:

  • San Juan County, Wash.;
  • Marin County, Calif.;
  • Carver County, Minn.;
  • Arlington County, Va.; and
  • Valley County, Idaho.

Top 5 Communities for Access to Health Care:

  • Olmsted County, Minn.;
  • Suffolk County, Mass.;
  • Johnson County, Iowa;
  • Montour County, Pa.; and
  • Salem, Va.

Top 5 Communities for Mental Health:

  • Fairfax County, Va.;
  • Santa Clara County, Calif.;
  • San Mateo County, Calif.;
  • Honolulu County, Hawaii; and
  • Pitkin County, Colo.
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