Los Alamos County in New Mexico Is the Healthiest Community in the US

Los Alamos County took the number-one spot, again, thanks to its population health, availability of affordable housing, infrastructure, and more.

U.S. News & World Report released its annual rankings for the Healthiest Communities in the U.S., and in 2022 Los Alamos County, New Mexico, came out on top for the third year in a row. It's the first community to take the number-one spot more than twice.

Located about 35 miles from Santa Fe, Los Alamos is known for its national laboratory, where the first atomic bombs were tested during World War II. Now, it's the county's clean air, access to outdoor recreation, and the affordability of its housing that are grabbing headlines.

According to the report, the project scored "nearly 3,000 counties on 89 indicators across 10 categories that drive overall community health." These 10 categories include population health, equity, education, economy, housing, food and nutrition, environment, public safety, community vitality, and infrastructure.

Los Alamos County received a perfect score due to its availability of affordable housing, public safety, population health, and access to parks.

Town of Los Alamos, New Mexico on the left and center, the Omega Bridge in the middle and the Los Alamos National Laboratories on the right.
Getty Images

"A healthy environment is part of what definitely contributes to [Los Alamos County] being a healthy community," Sara Scott, Los Alamos County councilor, told CNN when the county ranked first place in 2020. "People have the opportunity and the interest in getting out, taking advantage of our mountains, trails, biking, horse-riding, [and] golfing."

High scores for population health, education, and the economy earned Falls Church City, Virginia, its spot in second place, while lower scores for education, housing, and public safety dropped Douglas County, Colorado, to third. The final report, which ranks the top 500 healthiest communities, concludes with Madison County, Nebraska in 500th place.

According to CNN, some tools analyzed counties' COVID-19 data. Communities with lower COVID-19 death rates were also found to have higher rates of vaccinations and post-secondary education, in addition to scoring well in the food and nutrition category.

"What I learned in talking to health care and public health experts is that... the type of public health infrastructure and trust in public health that you need to have for a pandemic is something you start building, not at the time of the pandemic, but 10 years earlier," Alex Matthews, former data editor at U.S. News, told CNN in 2021.

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