Healthiest places to live: 2 N.J. counties make Top 20 in U.S. News ranking

Healthiest Communities, which judges counties on 10 metrics, puts 4 from N.J. in Top 100 of list of more than 3,000 areas

Two New Jersey counties are ranked among the Top 20 healthiest areas to live — and four made the Top 100 — in the fourth annual U.S. News & World Report Healthiest Communities list, which was released Tuesday morning.

The rankings, drawn from an examination of nearly 3,000 counties and county equivalents in 84 metrics across 10 categories, gave high marks to these four counties:

  • No. 15: Hunterdon;
  • No. 20: Morris;
  • No. 51: Somerset;
  • No. 92: Bergen.

Five additional New Jersey counties made the Top 400:

  • No. 208: Burlington;
  • No. 254: Monmouth;
  • No. 350: Middlesex;
  • No. 397: Warren;
  • No. 398: Gloucester.

U.S. News officials say the Healthiest Communities rankings and analysis platform explores how communities across the U.S. are working to improve the health of their residents. The project was done in collaboration with CVS Health and the Aetna Foundation.

The platform is intended to inform residents, health care leaders and elected officials about the local policies and practices in place that drive better health outcomes for all, U.S. News officials said.

This year’s rankings are accompanied by tools highlighting county-level COVID-19 vaccine rates and other pandemic data, as well as editorial explorations of equity and mental health — key components that can shape overall health and well-being.

Kim Castro, editor and chief content officer at U.S. News, said the pandemic obviously had a major impact on the rankings.

“The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted deep wounds on multiple aspects of a community’s well-being — from which it will take time to recover,” she said. “A county’s population health metrics, including mental health, health outcomes and access to care, have been adversely affected, along with major hits to education, economy and equity.

“This year’s Healthiest Communities rankings name not only the leading counties in the country, but also produce data reflecting other predictors of individual and community health as the country begins to recover.”

The overall Healthiest Communities rankings were drawn from metrics in the following 10 categories: community vitality, equity, economy, education, environment, food & nutrition, population health, housing, infrastructure and public safety.

All of the categories but one, equity, were identified as key considerations in evaluating community health by the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics as part of its Measurement Framework for Community Health and Well-Being. The U.S. News framework was developed by consensus following a thorough examination of research literature and extensive consultations with leading population health experts.

New Jersey, not surprisingly, scored very well on the education metric, as it placed three counties in the Top 5: Hunterdon (No. 2), Morris (No. 3) and Bergen (No. 4).

Los Alamos County in New Mexico was ranked No. 1 overall for the second consecutive year. Here’s a look at the overall Top 10:

  1. Los Alamos County, New Mexico;
  2. Douglas County, Colorado;
  3. Falls Church, Virginia;
  4. Loudoun County, Virginia;
  5. Broomfield County, Colorado;
  6. San Miguel County, Colorado;
  7. Pitkin County, Colorado;
  8. Howard County, Maryland;
  9. Morgan County, Utah;
  10. Routt County, Colorado.

CVS Health CEO Karen Lynch said the rankings illustrate the connection health and health care have on communities.

“Over the past year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated several issues that we knew existed within the health care system, including the interdependence between the health of our communities and our personal health,” she said.

“While our country appears to be turning a corner on the pandemic, with more people getting vaccinated every day, we understand that there is a lot of important work that still needs to be done to address the underlying community health issues that were brought to the forefront during the pandemic.”

The Healthiest Communities rankings, underwritten by the Aetna Foundation, are part of a $100 million commitment by CVS Health and its affiliates to making community health and wellness central to the company’s charge for a better world.

The Building Healthier Communities initiative, which will be funded over five years by CVS Health and the CVS Health and Aetna foundations, builds upon the tradition of community investment by CVS Health and Aetna and advances CVS Health’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.