Special Report

The Healthiest County in Each State

Middlesex County, Mass.
> Pct. without health insurance:
> Pct. food insecure: 9.0%
> Obesity rate: 23.1%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 5.6%

Healthy habits in Middlesex County contributed to its rank as the healthiest county in Massachusetts. Just 11.4% of county residents reported a smoking habit, significantly lower than the state rate of 15.2%, which itself was nearly the lowest compared to other states. Food environments, as measured by access to healthy food and the level of food insecurity among residents, were also exceptionally strong in the county. Less than 12% of Massachusetts residents were food insecure, the fourth lowest rate of all states. Even fewer Middlesex residents were food insecure at 9.0%.

Ottawa County, Mich.
> Pct. without health insurance:
> Pct. food insecure: 10.6%
> Obesity rate: 24.6%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 6.7%

While an estimated 7,218 years were lost per 100,000 people due to premature death annually in Michigan — higher than the national estimate — about 4,637 years were lost in Ottawa County. A longer life is among the possible benefits of a healthy lifestyle. While Ottawa residents were not especially wealthy, income was relatively well distributed in the county — much like in the healthiest counties in most states. Incomes in the 80th percentile were 3.7 times greater than incomes in the 20th percentile, versus the state and national income ratios of 4.7 and 4.6.

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Carver County, Minn.
> Pct. without health insurance:
> Pct. food insecure: 7.1%
> Obesity rate: 26.2%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 4.7%

Socioeconomic factors in Carver County were some of the strongest of all counties in Minnesota. Nearly 82% of 25-44 year olds in Carver had completed at least some college versus the comparable state attainment rate of 73.3%, which was the second highest of all states. County residents also tended to earn more than their already relatively wealthy state peers, and income was better distributed than it was across both the state and the nation. Economic stability likely helped support healthier lifestyles and lengthen the lives of area residents. Minnesota residents lost an estimated 5,038 years per 100,000 state residents annually due to premature death, the lowest figure compared to all states. In Carver, fewer than 3,500 years were lost per 100,000 area residents annually on average.

DeSoto County, Miss.
> Pct. without health insurance:
> Pct. food insecure: 14.3%
> Obesity rate: 35.2%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 6.3%

Mississippi residents routinely fare poorly on health assessments, so while DeSoto County is the healthiest in the state, it is not especially healthy compared to the nation. When asked to rate their own health as excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor, 21.5% of Mississippi residents responded fair or poor, the worst share compared to all states. In DeSoto County, 15.4% of residents rated their health as such, only slightly lower than the national share of 16.0%. DeSoto’s obesity rate of 35.2% was roughly in line with Mississippi’s nation-leading rate of 35.3%. A low child poverty rate helped improve the county’s ranking. While 34% of children across the state lived in poverty — the highest rate of all states — just 16.4% of DeSoto children lived below the poverty line, also lower than the national child poverty rate of 22%.

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Platte County, Mo.
> Pct. without health insurance:
> Pct. food insecure: 13.0%
> Obesity rate: 30.0%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 5.9%

While Missouri and other states in the region suffer from poor socioeconomic conditions and a range of poor health outcomes, Platte County residents benefit from relatively strong economic factors and are relatively healthy. More than 77% of 25-44 year old county residents had completed at least some college versus less than 64% of state residents in that age cohort. Strong educational attainment helped raise incomes and health outcomes. For example, while more than 17% of Missouri households were food insecure, one of the higher rates, 13% of Platte households had limited access to food.