U.S. News & World Report released its 2020 Healthiest Communities rankings, and Falls Church and Loudoun County, in Virginia, made the top 10, while Howard County, Maryland, fell in the rankings.
Falls Church ranked third, and Loudoun County was sixth on the list. Howard County, which ranked 10th in 2019, slipped to No. 19 on the current list.
Los Alamos County, New Mexico, topped the list, followed by Douglas County, Colorado.
The rankings combine 84 different metrics across 10 different categories to assess factors that make a community healthy — everything from the natural environment to access to health care.
Deidre McPhillips, senior data editor at U.S. News and World Reports, told WTOP that communities such as Falls Church rank highly on the list because they are consistently good across the 10 categories and stand out across different social determinants of health.
“[Falls Church] has top scores in measures of the economy and education — two very important areas that roll up into the healthiest communities rankings — and also in the population health category. It has some of the best health behavior — such as low smoking rates and high rates of physical activity — in its residents,” she said.
McPhillips added that among D.C.-area communities, “Loudoun County does best in community vitality, which includes … the number of nonprofits per capita and other factors related to engagement in the community.”
She said Howard County ranks well in many different metrics, but there was no specific reason for the slide from last year.
“One area that it stands out is housing equality,” she said.
According to McPhillips, Washington, D.C., which was not included in the rankings, stands out in two areas: great community layout and access to health care.
“It’s highly walkable, which is something that encourages good health,” she said.
McPhillips said there’s a link between the metrics used for the rankings and coronavirus case rates.
“That’s not to say they’re causal,” she said, “but it is indicative of … sharing information in a community; places where people tend to understand what they’re answering when they answer the census, tend to answer it more often, and places where people tend to understand the different ways we can prevent the spread of coronavirus are acting on that understanding and wearing masks and preventing the spread.”
McPhillips said new tools were used to account for coronavirus data, though it wasn’t actually including it directly.
“Since that’s such a rapidly evolving situation, we didn’t bring coronavirus data into the rankings, but we allowed visitors to the site to explore the relationships between the data using data tools and also some stories that examine the correlations between those data points,” she said.
McPhillips said so far, “the overall rankings generally tend to be pretty consistent.”
“Lots of social determinants of health take some time to change,” she said. “This is just the third year that we’re doing this ranking, so we hope to follow these trends long term and see how different policy changes can affect these factors.”
Here are some of the other D.C.-area counties to make the list:
- 21. Fairfax County, Virginia
- 26. Arlington County, Virginia
- 31. Fairfax City, Virginia
- 98. Montgomery County, Maryland
- 128. Alexandria City, Virginia
- 199. Fauquier County, Virginia
- 232. Calvert County, Maryland
- 283. Carroll County, Maryland
- 285. Stafford County, Virginia
- 289. Prince William County, Virginia
- 318. Frederick County, Maryland
- 323. Harford County, Maryland
- 460. Charles County, Maryland
- 485. Queen Anne’s County, Maryland
WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.