A new report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Americans continue to have a problem with obesity and are generally less healthy than citizens of many other nations. However, there are a few bright spots in the Center’s report, indicating that all American cities are not equally unhealthy.
You might suspect that California cities are among the healthiest in America. An emphasis on healthy eating and an almost obsessive addiction to exercise on the West Coast would suggest that perhaps they are healthier than the rest of the nation. But in fact, the CDC ranks the tiny metropolis of Burlington, Vermont as the healthiest city in America.
With a population of just over 40, 000, Burlington has been consistently voted one of the greenest and “most livable” cities in the United States. The college town has a median age of 37, and a reputation for plentiful outdoor activities. In fact, many residents routinely walk or bicycle around town and to work; while in the winter, skiing, snowboarding and hiking are all extremely popular.
Burlington (and Vermont in general) also has a reputation for progressive politics, and even smaller employers tend to offer very attractive health benefits. This emphasis on providing all residents with adequate health care most certainly contributes to the “healthiness” of the city, and one of the lowest levels of obesity in the country.
Interestingly, Burlington also has a relatively high percentage of both vegetarians and vegans, and census data indicates that about 40% of its citizens have at least a four year college degree, making Burlington one of the most highly educated areas of the country. Statistics also show that only 8% of the city’s residents live in poverty, far lower than the national average.
But on the opposite end of the “healthiness” scale, the CDC report says that Huntington, West Virginia has the “honor” of being the least healthy city in the US. Unlike Burlington, less than 15% of Huntington residents are college graduates. Nearly 50% of the city’s residents are considered obese, and the city has a higher than average percentage of fast food restaurants, suggesting that they eat less healthy meals.
Rates for diabetes and heart disease are also higher than average in Huntington, and there is less emphasis on outdoor activity, walking and using public transportation. Also contributing to the health problem is the poor state of the economy in West Virginia — approximately 20% of Huntington residents live below the poverty level, and many residents have no health insurance.
The CDC report shows that America clearly has a long way to go to become the healthy, active society it can be; but there are shining examples good health within the nation, like Burlington Vermont.