WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Most of Rhode Island’s communities are among the healthiest in the country, according to new data from US News & World Report.
The publication released its fourth annual Health Communities rankings Tuesday morning, where Rhode Island counties had the highest average score overall. Four out of the state’s five counties were ranked in the top 500 healthiest communities in the country: Bristol County at No. 76, Washington County at No. 90, Newport County at No. 203, and Kent County at No. 211.
Providence County, which has the highest population of people of color and makes up more than half the state’s population, was not ranked as one of the country’s healthiest communities for 2021.
According to US Census data, Providence County has the lowest median household income in Rhode Island, at $42,158 annually. Washington County has the highest median household income at $81,301.
In addition, nine of Massachusetts’ 14 counties were ranked in the top 500, including four that made it into the top 100: Nantucket County at No. 23, Dukes County at No. 25, Norfolk County at No. 67, and Middlesex County at No. 75.
Barnstable County came in at No. 161, Hampshire County at No. 182, Franklin County at No. 347, Berkshire County at No. 435, and Plymouth County at No. 469.
Three counties among the top 250 — Barnstable County, Mass.; Kent County, R.I.; and Hancock County, Ind. — had a mental health score of less than 50, with each posting relatively low scores for housing affordability, food availability, and natural environment.
The five states with the lowest average scores across counties were all in the South: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and South Carolina.
The 2021 rankings were also accompanied by tools highlighting county-level COVID-19 vaccine rates and other pandemic data, as well as editorial explorations of equity and mental health.
The rankings were developed in collaboration with the Aetna Foundation, which is the independent, charitable affiliate of Woonsocket-based CVS Health. The rankings and analysis are based on an evaluation of approximately 3,000 communities across 84 health and health-related metrics in 10 categories, from education and population health to infrastructure and environment. The University of Missouri Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems, a research institution that focuses on community health assessments, helped compile the rankings, which are based on metrics drawn from sources such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the US Census Bureau, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Much of the data used to compile this year’s rankings came from periods predating the pandemic, but would not have been affected by the pandemic’s impact on communities, according to the methodology.
In the 2021 rankings, the top five communities scored above the national average in at least eight of the 10 categories used in the analysis, including Los Alamos County, N.M., which is the first county to repeat as No. 1 since the rankings’ launch in 2018. The county posted its highest scores in categories related to housing, population health, and infrastructure in 2021.
Douglas County, Colo., came in at No. 2, followed by Falls Church, Va., at No. 3. Loudoun County, Va., moved up from No. 6 last year to No. 4 this year, and Broomfield County, Colo., moved down a slot from the 2020 rankings, and placed at No. 5.
Recent events were also examined alongside the rankings, including issues of equity around Hennepin County, Minn., which is a top 500 county that was the site of George Floyd’s murder by former police officer Derek Chauvin last May.
“Over the past year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated several issues that we knew existed within the health care system, including the interdependence between the health of our communities and our personal health,” said Karen Lynch, president and chief executive of CVS Health.
While the country appears to be turning a corner on the pandemic as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, Lynch said she understands that there is “a lot of important work that still needs to be done to address the underlying community health issues that were brought to the forefront during the pandemic.”
Here are some key measures from the rankings.
Top 10 Counties (overall)
- Los Alamos County, N.M.
- Douglas County, Colo.
- Falls Church, Va.
- Loudoun County, Va.
- Broomfield County, Colo.
- San Miguel County, Colo.
- Pitkin County, Colo.
- Howard County, Md.
- Morgan County, Utah
- Routt County, Colo.
Top 5 Communities for Health Outcomes
- San Juan County, Wash.
- Marin County, Calif.
- Carver County, Minn.
- Stevens County, Minn.
- Hunterdon County, N.J.
Top 5 Communities for Access to Health Care
- Olmsted County, Minn.
- Montour County, Pa.
- Suffolk County, Mass.
- Johnson County, Iowa
- Perry County, Ky.
Top 5 Communities for Mental Health
- Honolulu County, Hawaii
- Pitkin County, Colo.
- Fairfax County, Va.
- Santa Clara County, Calif.
- San Mateo, Calif.
Alexa Gagosz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.