Location matters when it comes to health. Some places promote wellness by expanding access to nutritious food and recreational facilities. Others strive to keep treatment costs affordable for everyone or protect green space that encourages an active and healthy lifestyle.
Absent such essentials, good health can be difficult to maintain, what with the rising cost of care in the U.S. and uneven standards for health education in public schools. Add to those factors the myriad health advice cluttering the web and the “groundbreaking” diet programs promising quick and easy results.
To determine which areas prioritize residents’ well-being, WalletHub’s data team compared 150 of the most populated U.S. cities across 34 key indicators of good health. Our data set ranges from “cost of doctor visit” to “fruit and vegetable consumption” to “fitness clubs per capita.” Read on for our findings, sound health advice from trustworthy experts and a full description of our methodology.
Ask the Experts
With health-care reform in the offing, we asked a panel of experts to weigh in on the possible effects of the new presidential administration’s policies as well as to provide advice on building good personal health. Click on the experts’ profiles below to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:
What impact would repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — dubbed “Obamacare” — have on the health of U.S. cities, particularly those with a high low-income population?
What effect might repealing the Medicaid expansion under the ACA have on state and municipal budgets?
What are the most important factors to consider in choosing a city that is good for your health?
Since health and wealth are both long-term investments, what are some effective strategies for convincing people to invest more in their health today?
What tips do you have for a person looking to embrace a healthier lifestyle while on a budget?
What measures can local authorities undertake in order to improve local health-care systems?
In order to identify the overall healthiest cities in the U.S., WalletHub’s analysts compared 150 of the most populated cities across four key dimensions: 1) Health Care, 2) Food, 3) Fitness and 4) Green Space. Our sample considers only the city proper in each case and excludes cities in the surrounding metro area.
We evaluated the four dimensions using 34 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for a healthy lifestyle. Data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available at the state level only and therefore half-weighted.
We then calculated overall scores for each city using its weighted average across all metrics and ranked the cities based on the resulting scores.
Health Care – Total Points: 25
Premature-Death Rate: Triple Weight (~5.36 Points)
Note: “Premature Death” refers to years of potential life lost.
Mental Health: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults reporting 14 or more mentally unhealthy days in the past month.
Mental-Health Counselors per Capita: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
Physical Health: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults reporting 14 or more physically unhealthy days in the past month.
Family Doctors per Capita: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
Dentists per Capita: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
Cost of Medical Visit: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
Cost of Dental Visit: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
Quality of Public Hospital System: Full* Weight (~1.79 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ ranking of public hospital systems.
Hospital Beds per Capita: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
Adult Health-Insurance Coverage: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults aged 18 to 64 with health insurance coverage.
Youth Health-Insurance Coverage: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of youths aged 17 and younger with health insurance coverage.
Food – Total Points: 25
Fruit & Vegetable Consumption: Double Weight (~6.26 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults consuming fewer than one serving of fruits or vegetables per day.
Farmer’s Markets per Capita: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
Gourmet Specialty-Food Stores per Capita: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
Healthy Restaurants per Capita: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
Note: “Healthy Restaurants” refers to vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free establishments.
Dietitians & Nutritionists per Capita: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
Share of Obese Residents: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
Limited Access to Healthy Foods: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of the population who earn a low income and do not live within a reasonable distance to a grocery store.
Fitness – Total Points: 25
Share of Residents Who Engage in Any Physical Activity: Double Weight (~8.33 Points)
Fitness Clubs per Capita: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
Average Cost of Fitness-Club Membership: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
Recreational Leagues per Capita: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
Weight-Loss Centers per Capita: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
Green Space – Total Points: 25
Parkland Acres per Capita: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Quality of Parks: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures “parks spending per capita,” as a proxy for “parks quality.”
Hiking Trails per Capita: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Running Trails per Capita: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Walking Trails per Capita: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Walk Score: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Bike Score: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Physical-Activity Access: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of the population with adequate access to locations for engaging in physical activity.
City “Greenness”: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s Greenest Cities in America ranking.
Recreation Access: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s Best & Worst Cities for Recreation ranking.
For more info on methodology, click here.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, County Health Rankings, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Yelp, Numbeo, IMLeagues, The Trust for Public Land, MapMyFitness, Walk Score and WalletHub research.
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