Health

Iowa counties among healthiest in nation, new report says

Johnson County ranked No. 5 for access to health care

Participants leave the starting line of the Let Me Run SpringFest 5K on the campus of Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, May 19, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Participants leave the starting line of the Let Me Run SpringFest 5K on the campus of Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, May 19, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Iowa counties are among the healthiest communities in the United States, according to new nationwide listings released on Tuesday.

The 2019 Healthiest Communities Rankings, an annual list compiled by U.S. News & World Report and the Aetna Foundation, measured counties in Iowa and other states on several health-related metrics, such as obesity and smoking rates as well as infrastructure and access to recreational spaces.

The report analyzed about 3,000 communities in 10 categories, and found that Douglas County, Colo. — which includes a suburb of Denver — as the healthiest community in America, in part for its measurements in physical activity and median household income, according to a news release on the rankings.

Iowa “has the strongest presence” in the rankings, with 62 counties listed among the top 500 nationwide, according to the news release.

The state’s top county is Bremer County — just north of Waterloo — at 26th in the ranking. It scored high in walkability and low toxic releases.

Eastern Iowa Counties listed in the top 500 healthiest communities include:

• Iowa County — at 164

• Benton County — 170

• Washington County — 260

• Buchanan County — 306

• Linn County — 410

Johnson County was No. 5 among communities with good access to health care, one of the 81 health related merits, according to the rankings. Iowa City, located in the county, is home to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics as well as Mercy Iowa City.

Among states, Iowa ranks No. 3 for high school graduation rate, No. 4 for good commute times and No. 5 for low rates of deaths of despair caused by drug abuses, alcoholism or suicide, the news release stated.

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Counties across the United States also were grouped into four peer rankings based on their urban and rural statuses. They are categorized as rural high-performing, rural up and coming, urban high-performing and urban up and coming.

Calhoun County — in Western Iowa — was ranked as the third rural up-and-coming community nationwide.

Several Iowa counties also ranked in the rural high-performing category, including Cedar (No. 30), Delaware (No. 39) and Iowa (No. 51).

Bremer and Dallas counties were ranked in the Top 25 urban high-performing communities, and Webster and Clinton Counties were ranked 29th and 30th within their peer groups.

The Healthiest Communities rankings, underwritten by Aetna Foundation, aims to inform residents, health care leaders and elected officials “about policies and best practices that help drive better health outcomes” for Americans, according to the news release.

It’s also part of a $100 million, five-year initiative by CVS Health to ensure good health in Americans.

“The Healthiest Communities rankings continue to provide the insights that are essential to identify key issues and support community organizations, leaders and residents who are tackling the unique social determinants of health that impact their respective neighborhoods,” Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health, said in the release.

• Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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