February 13, 2020

The healthiest (and unhealthiest) cities in America, according to WalletHub

Daily Briefing

    WalletHub this week ranked more than 170 metro areas in the country from healthiest to unhealthiest. See how your city fared on our interactive map.

    Get 10 tools for prioritizing community health interventions

    For the analysis, WalletHub examined 174 cities in the United States, including the 150 most populated cities in the country and at least two of the most populated cities in every state, and compared them using 43 metrics across four dimensions:

    • Fitness;
    • Food;
    • Green space; and
    • Health care.

    The researchers calculated overall scores for each city based on a weighted average of all metrics.

    Below is our interactive map of all 174 cities and how they ranked on each of the four dimensions:

    The healthiest US cities

    According to the WalletHub analysis, the 10 healthiest cities in the United States in 2020 are:

    1. San Francisco;
    2. Seattle;
    3. San Diego;
    4. Portland, Oregon;
    5. Washington, D.C.;
    6. New York;
    7. Denver;
    8. Irvine, California;
    9. Scottsdale, Arizona; and
    10. Chicago.

    By contrast, the cities ranked at the bottom of the list—representing the least healthy cities in WalletHub's list—were:

    1. Brownsville, Texas;
    2. Laredo, Texas;
    3. Gulfport, Mississippi;
    4. Shreveport, Louisiana;
    5. Memphis, Tennessee;
    6. Montgomery, Alabama;
    7. Huntington, West Virginia;
    8. Augusta, Georgia;
    9. Fort Smith, Arkansas; and
    10. Detroit.

    WalletHub also provided top-five lists for some of the metrics they evaluated. For instance:

    • Laredo, Texas, had the lowest cost of medical visit, while Providence, Rhode Island; Fargo, North Dakota; Milwaukee; Tacoma, Washington; Anchorage, Alaska; and Boston were all tied for the highest;
    • San Jose, California had the lowest premature death rate, while Mobile, Alabama; Columbus, Georgia; Charleston, West Virginia; St. Louis; Baltimore; and Huntington, West Virginia were all tied for the highest;
    • Portland, Oregon had the most healthy restaurants per capita, while Laredo, Texas had the fewest; and
    • Seattle had the highest percentage of physically active adults, while Laredo, Texas had the fewest.

    How to pick a city that's good for your health

    In a comment on the list, Martine Hackett, an associate professor of health professions at Hofstra University, said that the most important factors when choosing a city that's good for your health are "[w]alkability, access to public transportation, a strong sense of community, and diversity."

    Albert Wu, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said he would prefer a city "with a respected academic medical center—even if you do not get your primary care there, you might be readily referred to in the event of an uncommon or complex problem."

    Wu also said "good state public health insurance, a well-developed public health system, and evidence and data-driven state health department that measures and reports about health care quality and patient safety" are also important.

    Meanwhile, Emma Boswell Dean, assistant professor of health management and policy at Miami Herbert Business School at the University of Miami, said that, while a city's health care system is important, "there is growing evidence that other factors may be equally or even more important when choosing a city that will be good for your health."

    For example, research suggests that cities that have "higher levels of overall public expenditures … and invest in public health promotion measures, such as smoking bans in public areas, as well as those that are walkable with good public transportation systems have residents that live longer lives," Dean said. She added that it's also important to consider "whether there are grocery stores with fresh, healthy foods nearby" (WalletHub list, 2/12).

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