Whether you love to keep healthy by exercising outdoors or just exploring your neighboring parks, your community itself can actually have a lot to do with your regimen. According to Today, Los Alamos County, New Mexico, leads the country as the healthiest community in 2020, the U.S. News & World Report and Aetna Foundation reports. This area is known for its mountains, forests, and three national parks, and the area’s scenic views and remote nature further contribute to its esteem. “That is helping it score big in things like fresh air, fresh water. Housing is more affordable in Los Alamos precisely because it isn’t in a huge metropolis,” Joe Williams, senior editor at U.S. News & World Report, said.
To rank as one of the healthiest communities in the United States, locations must boast high scores based on 84 health-related metrics with categories like population health, food and nutrition, public safety, the environment, and more. Los Alamos County lead about 3,000 evaluated communities after getting top scores in metrics including affordable housing, quality of water in the community, and racial inclusivity among residents.
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To round out the list, Douglas County, Colorado; Falls Church, Virginia; Broomfield County, Colorado; Routt County, Colorado; Loudoun County, Virginia; Pitkin County, Colorado; Carver County, Minnesota; Summit County, Colorado; and San Miguel County, Colorado, completed the top 10 healthiest communities. And fresh water and air quality in many of the rural areas contributed to their top rankings. “Suburban counties of major cities tend to have better access to fresh food, more parks, higher spending on education per capita, and all of those things help influence ranking,” Williams said.
The healthiest community list also featured the best communities for mental health. The top five were Honolulu, Hawaii; Tripp County, South Dakota; Pembina County, North Dakota; Sutton County, Texas; and Hartley County, Texas. And the leading communities around the country for good health outcomes included San Juan County, Washington; Marin County, California; Carver County, Minnesota; Cedar County, Nebraska, and Winneshiek County, Iowa. Williams noted that more access to the outdoors on the west coast plays a major factor in the overall health of communities. “You have a lot of populations in the East that frankly struggle to find things like healthy food and access to health care and access to parks,” he said. “The West is a lot more sparse. There’s a lot more room and a lot more of an emphasis on outdoor recreation, on getting out.”