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Ranking 2020's healthiest U.S. communities

U.S. News Senior News Editor Joseph Williams joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman to discuss it's most recent report indicating how America's ""healthiest communities"" are responding to COVID-19.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Well, as we track the pandemic here in the US, an interesting new report out from US News and the Aetna Foundation is highlighting which communities across the country are actually the most healthy. And here to discuss that new ranking with us is US News Senior News Editor Joe Williams joins us now. And Joe, appreciate you taking the time.

It's an interesting new ranking of a lot of these communities across the US. And you guys put one in New Mexico here at number one. Talk to me about what went into these rankings and what determines which communities across the US are the healthiest.

JOSEPH WILLIAMS: Well, it's nice to be here. And basically, the community rankings are-- we create the community rankings on a set of metrics. They include everything from housing availability, access to fresh clean-- fresh air and clean water, food security, eviction rates, education, public safety, just a range of metrics that we use.

And we factor those in. We weigh each metric and give weight to certain things that rely on other communities than-- different other communities. And we end up with these rankings. So basically, what you'll notice in the rankings is that a lot of the best communities are ones that have high rates of education.

In other words, they have a lot of white collar workers with high incomes. There's not a lot of housing insecurity. There's plenty of access to outdoor recreation. And the people general-- you know, highly educated people are generally healthy. Mostly because, if you have an education, it leads to a better job, which leads to better health care.

ZACK GUZMAN: And I just want to walk through, I guess, these top ones here. Because there is a full ranking on your guys' website here. But Los Alamos County in New Mexico was number one. Douglas County in Colorado and Falls Church in Virginia round out the top three.

And when you look at those, I mean, I guess the one factor here that pointed out-- that stood out to me was each of those counties did have a rather high median household income, as well as a pretty low poverty rate here. So is the takeaway just that these counties by themselves, I guess, are enjoying pretty strong economic indicators here, or is there more going on beyond just those?

JOSEPH WILLIAMS: There's probably a little bit more going on. And one thing that, if you go back to our rankings you'll notice, that we have the top three. They're perennially there. Falls Church, Virginia, Loudon County, Virginia, Los Alamos, New Mexico, about four or five communities in Boulder, Colorado, it's been fairly consistent since we've been doing this.

And again, likely, these counties have all- the counties all have one thing in common. That's basically the fact that they have a highly educated population. And they have a lot of income security. The counties that don't do so well tend to be a lot unstable when it comes to income, not quite as much housing turnover or availability. And education also is a very good factor.

In other words, in some of these top communities, you have school systems that are ranked fairly high. And that's giving-- that's giving them the edge. And it's almost like a perpetuating concept. In other words, people tend to be drawn to community-- people of higher incomes tend to be drawn to those communities. And it helps promote the community in a kind of a perpetual loop.

ZACK GUZMAN: And six of those top 10, too, I'm just noticing here, too, were in the state of Colorado. I'm not sure if when you compile all these things, too, from a local standpoint and then back up and look at states, if that's been a standout over last-- over prior years as well.

Since Colorado is one of those states that, even in handling this pandemic, has been closely watched in terms of getting a handle on things as well. So what's so special, I guess, about what's going on there?

JOSEPH WILLIAMS: If I were to look at the rankings, I would say that probably outdoor recreation and healthy lifestyles. I mean it's almost a brand with Colorado. That if you're going to live in the Rocky Mountains, you're going to be into hiking. You're going to be into canoeing, that sort of. Thing I mean, not everybody is of course but certainly those people who boost the rankings, highly educated people who are into recreation and into the outdoors, which Colorado offers in abundance.

And one of the things that you'll look at is-- that you'll find if you look at the metric is that the healthier lifestyles and the more active a population is, the healthier they tend to be. I mean, it stands to reason that if you're physically active, you're going to have a better cardiovascular system. Your body weight's going to be lower. And your likelihood of diabetes and obesity is also going to be reduced.

And as we know, those are some really important pre-existing conditions that can be the gateway to a lot of health problems. Specifically during the coronavirus pandemic, that's been pointed out to be one of the factors that leads to-- leads scientists to determine who is at risk and who isn't for getting the virus.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, very interesting stuff here in the national rankings of the healthiest communities. Shout out to the Centennial State. But Joe Williams, US News Senior News Editor, appreciate taking the time to chat that and break it down for us.

JOSEPH WILLIAMS: No problem, thanks very much.