Burlington, VT is healthiest city & Huntington, WV is unhealthiest city in America
The Centers for Disease Control has completed a survey of the United States and found that Burlington, Vermont (pop. 39,000) is the healthiest city in the United States. The city is among the best in exercise and among the lowest in obesity, diabetes, and other measures of ill health; and 92% of residents report being in good or great health.
At the other end of the health spectrum is Huntington, West Virginia (pop. 49,000). Many of their health challenges there are related to obesity.
Huntington is essentially tied with a few other metropolitan areas for proportion of people who don’t exercise (31 percent), have heart disease (22 percent) and diabetes (13 percent). The smoking rate is pretty high, too, although not the worst.
However, the Huntington area is a clear-cut leader in dental problems, with nearly half the people age 65 and older saying they have lost all their natural teeth. And no other city comes close to Huntington’s adult obesity rate, according to the report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on data from 2006.
The dental statistic jumps out at me: 48.1% of people over 65 in Huntington have none of their original teeth left.
Some of the differences between the healthiest and unhealthiest cities are interesting:
- Burlington is younger, with an average age of 37, compared to 40 in Huntington, according to the Census Bureau.
- Burlington is better off financially, with 8 percent living at the federal poverty level, compared to 19 percent in Huntington.
- It’s much more educated, with nearly 40 percent of area residents having at least a college bachelor’s degree. Only 15 percent in the Huntington area do.
Poverty is a significant factor in Huntington’s high obesity rate and other health problems; people there don’t have much leisure time to exercise and often can’t afford to eat healthy foods. The news story refers to “the KFC $10 Challenge” which the the fried-chicken chain is advertising. They challenge a family to go to the grocery store and put together a dinner for $10 or less that was comparable to KFC’s seven-piece, $9.99 value meal. “This is what we’re up against,” said Keri Kennedy, manager of the West Virginia health department’s Office of Healthy Lifestyles. She notes that it’s an extremely persuasive ad for a low-income family that is accustomed to fried foods. “I don’t know what you do to counter that.”