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U.S. News and Aetna Foundation release 2021 Healthiest Communities rankings

June 29, 2021 | Health Insurance

A grandmother and her grandchild use trowels in their vegetable garden.

Updated rankings platform underscores the connection between physical health and a community’s mental health; features COVID-19 vaccine rates.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. News & World Report, in collaboration with the Aetna Foundation, an independent, charitable and philanthropic affiliate of CVS Health, today released the fourth annual Healthiest Communities rankings. This year’s rankings are accompanied by tools highlighting county-level COVID-19 vaccine rates and other pandemic data, as well as editorial explorations of equity and mental health — key components that can shape overall health and well-being.

In the 2021 rankings, the top five Healthiest Communities score above the national average in at least eight of the 10 categories used in the analysis, including Los Alamos County, New Mexico — the first community to repeat as No. 1 since the launch of the Healthiest Communities rankings in 2018. In the 2021 rankings, the County posted its highest scores in the Housing, Population Health and Infrastructure categories. Douglas County, Colorado, came in at No. 2, followed by Falls Church, Virginia, at No. 3. Loudoun County, Virginia, moved to No. 4, and Broomfield County, Colorado, rounded out the list at No. 5.

“The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted deep wounds on multiple aspects of a community’s well-being — from which it will take time to recover. A county’s population health metrics, including mental health, health outcomes and access to care, have been adversely affected, along with major hits to education, economy and equity,” said Kim Castro, editor and chief content officer at U.S. News. “This year’s Healthiest Communities rankings name not only the leading counties in the country, but also produce data reflecting other predictors of individual and community health as the country begins to recover.”

The 2021 rankings are accompanied by editorial pieces exploring, for example, connections between community vaccine data and other health-related metrics. The U.S. News editorial team also examines issues of equity around Hennepin County, Minnesota — a top 500 county that was the site of George Floyd’s murder by a police officer in May 2020 — and of mental health in Hawaii, where Honolulu County posted the country’s highest score in that subcategory of the rankings.

“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 officer of CVS Health Corporation. “While our country appears to be turning a corner on the pandemic, with more people getting vaccinated every day, we understand 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.”

Separate from the rankings, the COVID-19 tools, which track case numbers, death rates, unemployment and more, have been updated to include vaccine data. These tools complement the rankings data to highlight the relationship between the coronavirus pandemic and community health. Based on a U.S. News analysis, counties that performed well in the Healthiest Communities rankings have slightly lower COVID-19 case rates than average.

Some other key findings from the 2021 Healthiest Communities Rankings include:

  • Overall, Iowa counties are most heavily represented in the top 500, with 61 counties in the state making the list.

  • No. 1 Los Alamos County had the 17th-lowest COVID-19 case rate overall out of places included in the Healthiest Communities analysis, with 2,731 cases per 100,000 residents over the course of the pandemic as of May 31, 2021.

  • Counties with more educated and higher-earning populations tended to perform better on mental health measures included in the Healthiest Communities analysis.

The Healthiest Communities rankings, underwritten by the Aetna Foundation, are part of a $100 million commitment by CVS Health and its affiliates to making community health and wellness central to the company’s charge for a better world. The Building Healthier Communities initiative, which will be funded over five years by CVS Health and the CVS Health and Aetna foundations, builds upon the outstanding tradition of community investment by CVS Health and Aetna and advances CVS Health’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.

The Healthiest Communities rankings and accompanying analysis are based on an evaluation of approximately 3,000 communities nationwide across 84 health and health-related metrics in 10 categories, from Education and Population Health to 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.

To compile the rankings and create the overall Healthiest Communities project, U.S. News partnered with the University of Missouri Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES), a research institution skilled in community health assessment. Overall, the rankings are based on metrics drawn from sources such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Much of the data used to compile the 2021 Healthiest Communities rankings came from periods predating the COVID-19 pandemic and would not have been affected by the pandemic’s impact on communities.

The Healthiest Communities rankings are the centerpiece of a 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’ Government Rankings initiative, which measures government performance at the international, state and local levels and includes the Best States, Best Countries, and Cities projects.

As a part of the 2021 Healthiest Communities rankings, U.S. News will be hosting the second annual Community Health Leadership Forum webinar series. Themes will cover lessons learned amid the COVID-19 pandemic, equitable vaccine distribution and addressing disparities in maternal health. The first webinar, featuring CVS Health President and CEO, Karen Lynch, will be on July 1 and sessions will continue through the summer. Register here.

2021 Healthiest Communities — Top 10

*See the full rankings here

Top 10 Counties

  1. Los Alamos County, New Mexico

  2. Douglas County, Colorado

  3. Falls Church, Virginia

  4. Loudoun County, Virginia

  5. Broomfield County, Colorado

  6. San Miguel County, Colorado

  7. Pitkin County, Colorado

  8. Howard County, Maryland

  9. Morgan County, Utah

  10. Routt County, Colorado

2021 Key Measures

Top 5 Communities for Health Outcomes

  1. San Juan County, Washington

  2. Marin County, California

  3. Carver County, Minnesota

  4. Stevens County, Minnesota

  5. Hunterdon County, New Jersey

Top 5 Communities for Access to Health Care

  1. Olmsted County, Minnesota

  2. Montour County, Pennsylvania

  3. Suffolk County, Massachusetts

  4. Johnson County, Iowa

  5. Perry County, Kentucky

Top 5 Communities for Mental Health

  1. Honolulu County, Hawaii

  2. Pitkin County, Colorado

  3. Fairfax County, Virginia

  4. Santa Clara County, California

  5. San Mateo, California

For more information on Healthiest Communities, follow coverage on Facebook and Twitter using #HealthiestCommunities.

U.S. News media contacts

Sarah Javors
(202) 955-2153

Aetna Foundation media contacts

Ethan Slavin
(860) 273-6095

About U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report is the global leader in quality rankings that empower citizens, consumers, business leaders and policy officials to make better, more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives. A multifaceted digital media company with Education, Health, Money, Travel, Cars, News and 360 Reviews platforms, U.S. News provides rankings, independent reporting, data journalism, consumer advice and U.S. News Live events. More than 40 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 an independent, charitable and philanthropic affiliate of CVS Health Corporation (NYSE:CVS). For more information, visit