Howard County is among the Top 10 Healthiest Counties in the nation, according to rankings by U.S. News & World Report. The local no. 10 ranking among nearly 3,000 jurisdictions is a significant step up from last year’s no. 20 ranking. The county, which was the only top 10 county in Maryland, was also no. 10 among its peer group of urban, high-performing communities.

The rankings represent an evaluation of 81 health-related metrics in 10 categories as underwritten by the Aetna Foundation. The categories include Population Health, Equity, Education, Economy, Housing, Food & Nutrition, Environment, Public Safety, Community Vitality and Infrastructure. They are weighted in that order as part of the health assessment to arrive at an overall score, and to represent the variety of social and economic factors that contribute to overall community health.

“We continue to work collaboratively with our Local Health Improvement Coalition members across the county to encourage healthy behaviors, like physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight,” said Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman. “Behavioral health, healthy aging and access to health care are identified focus areas in which our partnerships play an important role in improving the population’s health. We strive to ensure health equity is achieved by closing any gaps related to racial, gender, educational or economic status.”

Top communities in this national assessment offer residents substantial opportunities to live a productive, healthy life, and the data from the study helps inform officials and community leaders about policies and practices that further lead to improved outcomes.

“This ranking is gratifying, but our goal is to help make Howard County the healthiest community in the nation. These scores validate the efforts that Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) has undertaken with our partners to improve the health of the population and address access to care, obesity and behavioral health issues,” HCGH President Steve Snelgrove. “But there is more work to do on equity and the social determinants of health, and we are committed to making even more gains.”