2017 “HEALTHIEST” US CITIES, OR “WEALTHIEST”? A slideshow article appeared in a newsletter of ACTIVE.com, a fitness-centered business, highlighting the top 10 overall healthiest American cities identified by a WalletHub ranking of “150 of the most populated” US cities from most to least healthy.
Many of these ‘listicles’ are somewhat addicting, in that it’s very difficult to resist peeking inside to find who rates being named the very best (or sometimes worst) among us. So this list is like People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful“ or “25 Most Intriguing” People” issues, but backed up by analysis of data from very impressive sources like the US Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), Trust for Public Lands, and other agencies. And Yelp, Numbeo, IMLeagues, MapMyFitness, Walk Score, and WalletHub’s own research.
The study, conducted by WalletHub’s analysts, identified the “healthiest places to live “across four key dimensions: 1) Health Care, 2) Food, 3) Fitness, and 4) Green Space.” Importantly, but in lost in the less exciting explanation of methods, WalletHub indicates that the “sample considers only the city proper in each case and excludes cities in the surrounding metro area.”
Congratulations are in order for the lovely cities of 1) San Francisco CA, 2) Salt Lake City UT, 3) Scottsdale AZ, 4) Seattle WA, 5) Portland OR, 6) Irvine CA, 7) Huntington Beach CA, 7) Honolulu HI, 9) Washington DC, and 10) Santa Clarita CA!
Most of us would recognize these cities as travel destinations for holiday and vacation fun. Popular places to visit and work because of temperate climate or the presence of spectacular nearby geographic features, such as mountains, oceans/lakes/bays/rivers, beaches, and forests. Outdoor enthusiasts who run, ski, hike, cycle, and surf are attracted to these places. In the case of Washington DC, the power and majesty of the federal government is a draw.
Some may not know that Irvine CA, in beautiful Orange County (the “OC”) is near Huntington Beach (“Surf City USA”), and both are south of Los Angeles near the Pacific Ocean coast. Santa Clarita is a bit north of the San Fernando Valley area of LA. It’s a huge plus that when you travel or re-locate to these cities you are assured of finding green spaces and opportunities for recreational fun, as well as affordable health care and nutritious food, by such rankings.
Central cities like these attract successful corporations, who provide health insurance benefits to employees, and health care professionals, like family doctors, mental health counselors, and dietitians/nutritionists. Revenue from tourism and corporate taxes helps fund initiatives that promise to improve the healthy living prospects for residents.
What this discussion is leading up to is a question about ‘wealth’. These 10 healthiest cities are “wealthy” in terms of the physical beauty of their locations and residents’ appreciation of fitness. However, did they score well in this ranking due to dollar wealth too?
I Googled–around and found that except for Salt Lake City UT and the Northwest cities of Seattle WA and Portland OR, the remaining healthiest cities have 2-4 of the nation’s most expensive department stores (Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom) within their city borders or in nearby suburbs. The western cities have Nordstrom. For residents of Santa Clarita there would be a long-ish freeway drive into the San Fernando valley or LA to find such retailers.
However, having big expensive stores is not a proxy for civic health (other large cities have these stores nearby and received low scores). I would like to see this data analyzed taking median household income into consideration. Maybe there are cities who could be identified as winning the “healthiest” designation within categories determined by resident wealth.
Cities with similar budget constraints might more easily learn from role model ‘healthiest” in their category/division how to make the most of scarce resources and motivate their citizens to invest in long term health.
WalletHub convened a panel of experts who were asked to provide advice on building good personal health. Each person’s recommendations are made available to readers. The few I reviewed were thoughtful and discussed budget.
INDIVIDUAL EFFORT COUNTS
Before signing off there is one more ‘point’ to be made. The cities with the highest scores were healthiest. The highest possible score was 100 points, 25 for each of the 4 dimensions (health -12 scored metrics, food - 7 scored metrics, fitness - 5 scored metrics, and green space- 10 scored metrics).
The ONE item of all 34 metrics (or measurable items) for which the MOST possible points (~8.33, double points) could be awarded was “share of residents who engage in ANY physical activity. The SECOND highest possible awarded point item (~6.23, double points) was based on “percent adults consuming fewer than 1 serving of fruits OR vegetables per day. The remaining 32 items were awarded 1.79 to 5.36 points
As INDIVIDUALS, we can strive to meet these 2 minimum measures of health to make our cities healthier places to live! Everything is not out of our control. We have some PERSONAL POWER. Even on a budget. There may be a way to become MORE physically active, and to eat just ONE nutritious plant food each day. It’s worth the effort to try.
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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