Special Report

The Healthiest County in Each State

Los Alamos County, N.M.
> Pct. without health insurance:
> Pct. food insecure: 11.8%
> Obesity rate: 20.0%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 4.0%

Although New Mexico tends to report relatively poor health measures, Los Alamos County reports much better measures. The county is home to some of the state’s wealthiest residents, which contributed substantially to the health ranking. More than 21.5% of New Mexico residents did not have health insurance, the sixth highest rate of all states. In Los Alamos County, on the other hand, less than 5% did not have health insurance. Also, while nearly 62% of children across the state qualified for free lunch — the second highest state figure — no children were considered poor enough to qualify in Los Alamos.

Putnam County, N.Y.
> Pct. without health insurance:
> Pct. food insecure: 6.1%
> Obesity rate: 29.4%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 5.8%

While Putnam County ranked first for health in New York, its obesity rate of 29.4% was higher than both the state and national rates. However, residents fared much better in other measures. Less than 10% smoked, for example, half the national rate and far less than the 16.6% of New Yorkers who smoked. Also, not only were Putnam County residents better off financially than most New Yorkers, but income was better distributed. Putnam County household incomes in the 80th percentile were 4.2 times greater than those in the bottom 20th percentile, versus the 5.5 income ratio across New York — the worst level of income inequality compared to all states.

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Orange County, N.C.
> Pct. without health insurance:
> Pct. food insecure: 15.6%
> Obesity rate: 21.3%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 5.3%

The connection between health measures and income distribution is well acknowledged among researchers today, as an even distribution promotes social cohesion. Indeed, income in most of the healthiest counties was relatively well distributed. In Orange County, however, household incomes in the 80th percentile were 6.4 times greater than those in the bottom 20th percentile — one of the widest income gaps nationwide. Area residents on the whole were still very healthy, however, with a low smoking rate and a low percentage of people reporting physical inactivity.

Traill County, N.D.
> Pct. without health insurance:
> Pct. food insecure: 6.8%
> Obesity rate: 35.8%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 3.1%

Nearly 36% of Traill County residents were obese, significantly higher than both the state and national rates. Still, the county had the highest health ranking of any other county in the state, largely due to strong socioeconomic factors. Like North Dakota, Traill had an especially low unemployment rate at just 3.1%. Also, more than 76% of residents 25-44 had completed at least some college, versus the state rate of 74.4%, which was itself the highest rate of all states. Financial security helped improve housing situations for many residents — 11% of North Dakotan households had at least one severe housing problem, the lowest state share. In Traill, just 6.5% of households reported such concerns. In addition, the vast majority of residents had access to health insurance and healthy food.

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Delaware County, Ohio
> Pct. without health insurance:
> Pct. food insecure: 9.4%
> Obesity rate: 26.5%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 5.2%

Just 7% of Delaware County residents rated their own health as poor or fair, less than half the 15.3% figure for Ohio. Relatively even income distribution and a high rate of health insurance coverage contributed to the high quality of life among area residents. And these factors helped lower the incidence of disease in the area. For example, less than 9% of the Delaware County population was diabetic, less than the 11.2% of state residents that were, which was itself one of the lowest shares.