Special Report

The Healthiest City in Every State

1. Fairbanks, Alaska
> Pct. without health insurance:
12.6%
> Pct. food insecure: 10.0%
> Obesity rate: 29.0%
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.7%

The Fairbanks metro area is the healthiest in Alaska. Just 11% of area adults reported fair or poor health, lower than the statewide percentage of 13.2%, which itself was well below the 16.0% of Americans reporting such low levels of health nationwide. Accessing medical care in Alaska can be a challenge. For every primary care physician in the state, there are 1,191 people, one of the highest ratios compared to other states. In Fairbanks, the ratio is even higher, at 1,432 people for every doctor. Still, the area reports strong health outcomes. For example, 5.6% of babies born in Fairbanks had a low birth weight, lower even than the statewide percentage of 5.8%, which itself was the lowest compared to other states. Fairbanks area residents also had a relatively low incidence of premature death. An estimated 5,862 years are lost per 100,000 people each year in Fairbanks due to preventable death, much lower than the state estimate of 7,321.

2. Auburn-Opelika, Alabama
> Pct. without health insurance:
11.5%
> Pct. food insecure: 11.4%
> Obesity rate: 30.0%
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.6%

Auburn-Opelika is the healthiest city in Alabama, a state where people report relatively poor health outcomes compared to the nation. While more than 20% of adult state residents reported fair or poor health, for example, 17.5% of adults in Auburn-Opelika reported such poor health. Relatively strong insurance coverage rates likely help Auburn residents stay healthy. Uninsured people are less likely to have a primary care provider or receive preventive care. As a result, health conditions are more often diagnosed at a late stage or not diagnosed at all. Roughly 11.5% of Auburn-Opelika residents did not have health insurance, lower than both the state and the national uninsured rates of 13.6% and 14.5%.

3. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona
> Pct. without health insurance:
17.4%
> Pct. food insecure: 3.8%
> Obesity rate: 24.6%
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.0%

While residents of Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale are only marginally healthier than statewide residents, they are still the healthiest in Arizona. Area residents are also only marginally healthier than the average American. For example, 15.3% of adults in Phoenix reported being in fair or poor health, compared to 15.6% for the state and 16% of adults across the nation. Still, about 20% of Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale residents did not participate in physical activity during their leisure time in the month preceding the survey, a significantly lower proportion than the corresponding nationwide figure of 27%. Physical activity among the area’s population may have contributed to the area’s lower obesity rate. The obesity rate among area adults was 24.6%, significantly less than the national rate of 28%.

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4. Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Arkansas
> Pct. without health insurance:
15.2%
> Pct. food insecure: 7.0%
> Obesity rate: 28.3%
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.6%

The Fayetteville metro area is the healthiest in Arkansas. Only 14.9% of adults in the metro area reported fair or poor health, a smaller share than the 19.4% of adults statewide. Physical activity is important to both physical and mental health. About 76% of Fayetteville residents have adequate access to locations for physical activity compared to less than 66% of Arkansas residents. It is not surprising therefore that a smaller share of Fayetteville residents are physically inactive compared to the percentage of the entire Arkansas population — 23.9% versus 30.5%, respectively.

5. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California
> Pct. without health insurance:
11.2%
> Pct. food insecure: 1.6%
> Obesity rate: 20.4%
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.6%

The San Luis Obispo metro area is the healthiest in California, which itself is one of the healthier states in the nation. Healthy behaviors likely contributed to the strong health indicators. Just 10% of area residents reported a smoking habit, lower than the comparable statewide smoking rate of 12.9% and half the comparable national smoking rate. Supermarkets and medical care are also highly accessible to San Luis area residents. Even among low income households, just 1.6% reported low access to food. Nationwide, 5.7% of low income households were food insecure. And while 14.5% of Americans did not have health insurance, 11.2% of the metro area’s residents were uninsured, also lower than the state percentage.

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