See where your city falls on Wallet Hub’s annual list of unhealthiest cities in the United States.
States were ranked according to the following factors:
• Health care
• Green space
WalletHub created these rankings by compiling data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, County Health Rankings, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Yelp, Numbeo, IMLeagues, The Trust for Public Land, MapMyFitness, Walk Score, and WalletHub’s research of its own.
Each respondent practices in or around one of the bottom 10 healthiest cities in America according to WalletHub’s annual list. We wanted to see their thoughts on why their city was named in the bottom 10 healthiest cities in the nation.
Did your city make the bottom 10 list?
1. Detroit, MI
Jeffrey Varanelli, OD
Though Detroit and the waterfront are going through a renaissance and there is great access to sporting and cultural events, the weather can sometimes be a hindrance to consistent outdoor activities. However, an expansion of biking and running trails would be a welcome addition even throughout the colder winter months.
2. Brownsville, TX
Gene Wong, OD, FAAO
When I practiced in Brownsville, TX, I saw many poor eating habits in my pediatric patients. Poor eating habits eventually lead to diabetes and hypertension as patients grow older. I had kids come into my exam room with cheese puffs smothered in nacho cheese to eat during their eye exams.
Junk food was sometimes these children’s meals. Cameron County has the highest child poverty in the state of Texas. Unfortunately, poverty and poor nutrition habits go hand in hand.
3. Memphis, TN
Whitney Hauser, OD
Memphis is known for its barbeque and Elvis Presley. Neither makes one think of health and fitness.
Our community is built on traditional southern foods that are often fried and heavy in fat. Though Memphis made the list, we are turning our community around by upgrading parks, creating city-wide trails, and adding bike shares.
We won't be on the list forever!
4. Laredo, TX
Amador Flores Jr, OD
This is certainly not a distinction any city wants, especially the city I was born and raised in. I believe the low ranking is multifactorial. Laredo, TX, is a very traditional city with deeply rooted Mexican culture which brings along Mexican cuisine, which is not all that healthy.
Laredo is also a predominantly Hispanic city with diabetes in our DNA. Another common complaint among locals is the lack of recreational space and activities in the area, which of course may contribute to a more sedentary lifestyle.
In more recent years, recreation is one area where improvement has been made and continues to change with the addition of recreational parks and indoor recreational centers.
So, maybe in the near future Laredo will move up in the rankings!
5. Shreveport, LA
Pam Theriot, OD
Living a healthy lifestyle is a choice. My husband is in the military, and our family moves to a different state about every three years. Currently, I live in Shreveport, LA. I am not surprised to see it on the unhealthiest list.
The native residents here are mostly from rural communities, and the education system is not a priority. The native diet relies heavily on fried foods and sugary drinks.
The weather in the summer is usually too hot to exercise outdoors, and there are not many hiking, biking, or running trails. The weather in the winter is great to exercise outdoors, though. Many people enjoy hunting and fishing in the fall and spring.
It is hard to blame the weather. We used to live in Syracuse, NY. I found more fit people in a city that is covered in snow at least seven months a year than in some sunny cities.
6. Corpus Christi, TX
Julia Castronova, OD, FAAO
Corpus Christi and other Texas cities in general
, usually cannot escape the top of the list of unhealthiest or fattest cities. There is an abundance of fast food restaurants, chain restaurants, barbeque, and fried food with limited healthy options.
The standard American diet set the standard here, and it is evident in our patient population where diabetes and hypertension are very prevalent. The city itself is spread out and does not have the greatest walkability or available bike lanes. The weather is often hot, and the majority of people here are just not that active.
7. North Las Vegas, NV
Janet L. Carter, OD, FAAO
I practiced in the city of North Las Vegas from 2008 through early 2013. Of course, that time period included the worst of the recession, and North Las Vegas was one of the hardest hit areas in the country in the mortgage crisis.
Access to care is probably the biggest concern facing residents. Yes, Nevada has expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but there is a shortage of providers who accept Medicaid in the area. Our office was one of the few that accepted Medicaid, and we were always overbooked as a result.
Some of the Medicaid HMOs that were popular in the area had no ophthalmologists on its plans, making timely referrals problematic when they were necessary. During that time period before the ACA took effect, Medicaid in Nevada did not cover routine vision care for adults.
Access to care was also limited by geographic restrictions. Even if patients found a provider willing to accept their insurance, getting to the appointment could be problematic. All of Las Vegas Valley suffers from tremendous urban sprawl, and the city of North Las Vegas is no exception.
Public transportation is abysmal; the buses from the center city to residential areas of North Las Vegas sometimes run only once or twice an hour and are subject to long delays. A patient who has an appointment a bus ride away is not likely to wait an hour in the summer heat, usually well over 100 degrees, to catch a bus.
Combine all of these access challenges with the fact that North Las Vegas is an environment in which plenty of booze is available 24/7. Plus, many residents of North Las Vegas work on The Strip; even if they do not smoke themselves, they are exposed to high amounts of second
-hand smoke within the casinos.
I am not at all surprised that North Las Vegas made the “least healthy cities” list!
8. Newark, NJ
Brian Cohen, OD
Cities in New Jersey such as Newark, Camden, and Trenton have large percentages of its population living at or below the poverty level. This leads to many patients relying on government-assisted medical insurance. With these coverages, many times there is a limited number of healthcare providers accepting these insurance plans.
Medical care and healthy living can be luxuries that patients in these areas can't always afford or do not prioritize
d. After practicing in Trenton for 15 years, I've seen many people visit their doctor with end-stage disease with what should have been very treatable or preventable if caught earlier.
9. Toledo, OH
Mile Brujic, OD, FAAO
Northwest Ohio is a great place to live and raise a family. Unfortunately, our winter seems to last long. Not only that, but there are very gray skies in the winter. This puts limits on the amount of time we can be outside being active.
10. Augusta, GA
Ben Casella, OD, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor of Optometry Times
If I was a betting man, which I am not, I'd say the study was based largely on the meta-analysis of macro data such as socioeconomic status—which can be an indicator of health.
Augusta, GA, is in an interesting paradigm of its history as it is essentially transitioning from a big town to a medium-sized city. Infrastructure, including recycling and green space, have improved tremendously over the last decade or so. Perhaps the investigators on this study should update their evidence profile.