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U.S. News and Aetna Foundation Release Inaugural Healthiest Communities Rankings

March 26, 2018 | Community

Washington, D.C. — U.S. News & World Report, the global authority in rankings and civic journalism, in collaboration with the Aetna Foundation, the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna, today announced the inaugural Healthiest Communities rankings. The new report evaluated nearly 3,000 communities nationwide across 10 categories, from education and population health to infrastructure and economy. In addition to assessing which communities offer their citizens the greatest opportunity to live a productive, healthy life, the rankings offer insight into the best approaches for improving public health that can be shared and implemented across the country.

“For nearly thirty years, U.S. News has evaluated hospitals, colleges and other sectors for the benefit of consumers, recognizing the importance of access to trusted, in-depth information,” said Eric Gertler, chairman of U.S. News. “Healthiest communities is an extension of that effort, giving citizens, community leaders and policy-makers the tools to assess health in their communities and develop a blueprint for positive change.”

In addition to an overall ranking of the top 500 communities, four peer groupings were developed based on counties’ urban-rural status as tied to population density and the robustness of their economies. The peer groups assure fair comparisons between communities and are categorized by: urban high-performing, urban up-and-coming, rural high-performing and rural up-and-coming. An Honor Roll was also developed that highlights 36 top-performing communities in each peer group from the nine US Census regions.

“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 Mark T. Bertolini, chairman of the Aetna Foundation and chairman and CEO of Aetna. “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.”

Key Findings in the 2018 Healthiest Communities rankings:

  • The top five Healthiest Communities all score above the national average in at least nine of the 10 categories evaluated. Falls Church city, Virginia, is No. 1, ranking in the top three communities nationally for education, economy and public safety.
  • Douglas County, Colorado and Los Alamos County, New Mexico, follow at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Broomfield County, Colorado, places fourth, while Loudoun County, Virginia, rounds out the top five.
  • Virginia and Colorado communities dominate the top 15. Among the top 10: Falls Church city (1), Loudoun County(5), and Fairfax city(7), Virginia; Douglas County (2), Broomfield County (4), Routt County (12) and Grand County(14), Colorado. Together, communities in the two states boast an average of 62 primary care doctors for every 100 people and an average life expectancy that is more than a year longer than the national average.
  • Peer Groups: The top 100 communities in each peer group range from Keweenaw County, Michigan – a county with a total population of just over 2,000 – to Middlesex County, Massachusetts, which is home to more than 1.5 million people. Rural counties stand out in the community vitality category that includes measures such as voter participation and homeownership rates, while up-and-coming economies perform strongly in the environment category, which includes access to parks and good air and water quality.
  • Across all four peer groups, top counties rank well in the population health category, which looks at access to care, mental health, health behaviors such as preventative care visits and tobacco use, prevalence of health conditions such as cancer and heart disease among Medicare beneficiaries, and health outcomes including life expectancy and teen birth rates.
  • Honor Roll: When organized by region, a number of communities that may not be at the top on a national stage stand out among their regional peers. Communities that are highlighted on the 2018 Healthiest Communities Honor Roll that did not rank in the top 500 include Calhoun County, Iowa; Kerr County, Texas; and Orleans County, Vermont.

The Aetna Foundation – which has helped improve community health for more than 40 years currently supports hundreds of programs across the country that address the social determinants of health. Using data from the Healthiest Communities rankings, the Foundation will continue to make targeted investments in locally-based programs and cross-sector partnerships that will accelerate progress towards building healthy communities across the country.

To compile the rankings, U.S. News worked with the University of Missouri Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES), a research institution skilled in community health assessment, and consulted with members of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics. The rankings are based on 80 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.

The Healthiest Communities rankings are the centerpiece of a new platform featuring in-depth reporting and analysis on community and public health issues, as well as comprehensive data covering the full spectrum of factors that influence population health. Healthiest Communities is part of U.S. News’ expanding News channel and civic journalism portfolio, which includes the Best States and Best Countries platforms that evaluate how government leaders and public policies best serve their citizens.

2018 Healthiest Communities – Top 10

*See the full rankings here

1. Falls Church city, Virginia 6. Hamilton County, Indiana
2. Douglas County, Colorado 7. Fairfax city, Virginia
3. Los Alamos County, New Mexico 8. Ozaukee County, Wisconsin
4. Broomfield County, Colorado 9. Teton County, Wyoming
5. Loudoun County, Virginia 10. Delaware County, Ohio

Peer Group Rankings – Top 5

Urban, High-Performing Rural, High-Performing
1. Falls Church city, Virginia 1. Teton County, Wyoming
2. Douglas County, Colorado 2. Routt County, Colorado
3. Los Alamos County, New Mexico 3. Morgan County, Utah
4. Broomfield County, Colorado 4. Grand County, Colorado
5. Loudoun County, Virginia 5. Ouray County, Colorado

Urban, Up-and-Coming Rural, Up-and-Coming
1. Bennington County, Vermont 1. Jefferson County, Washington
2. Island County, Washington 2. Lexington city, Virginia
3. Montgomery County, Virginia 3. Lincoln County, Washington
4. Leelanau County, Michigan 4. Emery County, Utah
5. Latah County, Idaho 5. Richland County, Illinois

Honor Roll Sample

  • Allegany County, New York
  • Hardeman County, Texas
  • Orleans County, Vermont
  • Marshall County, Kentucky
  • San Juan County, Washington
  • Sibley County, Minnesota

To view the full rankings and search county profiles, please visit:

For more information on Healthiest Communities explore Facebook and Twitter using #HealthiestCommunities.

About U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report is a digital news and information company that empowers people to make better, more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives. Focusing on Education, Health, Personal Finance, Travel, Cars and News & Opinion, provides consumer advice, rankings, news and analysis to serve people making complex decisions throughout all stages of life. More than 30 million people visit each month for research and guidance. Founded in 1933, U.S. News is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

About The Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who volunteered 430,000 hours in 2016 alone. For more information, visit

Media Contacts:

U.S. News
Maria Santucci

Aetna Foundation
Ethan Slavin

Updated on Nov. 20, 2018: The 2018 Healthiest Communities rankings have been adjusted due to previously incorrect scoring calculations. This resulted in changes to community rankings and scores. Visit this page for further information.