The 2018 Healthiest Communities report evaluates nearly three thousand communities nationwide across ten categories, from education and population health to infrastructure and economy, assessing which communities offer their residents the greatest opportunity to live a productive, healthy life and offering insights into the most successful approaches to improving public health. In addition to an overall ranking of the top five hundred communities, four peer groupings were developed based on counties' urban-rural status as defined by population density and economic vitality, with an honor roll highlighting thirty-six top-performing communities in each peer group.
According to the report, Falls Church, Virginia, is the healthiest community in the U.S., ranking among the top three communities nationally for education, economy, and public safety. It was followed by Douglas and Broomfield counties in Colorado, at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively; Los Alamos County in New Mexico at No. 4; and Dukes County, Massachusetts (which includes Martha's Vineyard) at No. 5. Together, communities in Virginia and Colorado boast an average of sixty-two primary care doctors for every hundred people and have an average life expectancy that is more than a year longer than the national average.
In compiling the rankings — the centerpiece of a new platform featuring in-depth reporting and analysis on community and public health issues — U.S. News worked with the University of Missouri Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES) and consulted with members of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics. The rankings are based on eighty metrics drawn from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"Research has shown that in the United States, your ZIP code is a greater predictor of your life expectancy than your genetic code. In other words, where you live has a significant impact on your overall health," said Aetna chair and CEO Mark T. Bertolini. "Our work with U.S. News will provide communities with data that can help them better understand opportunities for improvement, as well as inspire ideas for change by showcasing the best practices of communities across the country."