These Are the 15 Least Healthy Cities in America
Did your hometown make the list?
Rock ‘n roll may be Memphis’ claim to fame, but very few claim health care benefits in this city. In fact, it’s the worst-ranked in the country for access to health care, according to a recent study by WalletHub, which based its score on the mental and physical health of the city’s residents, cost of medical and doctor’s visits, insurance coverage, and the quality of its public hospital system, among other metrics. One reason their health care might be so poor: Memphis lacks green space, which has been shown to encourage people to spend more time on the move. “Living in close proximity to green space correlates to better health outcomes,” says Tomar Pierson-Brown, director of the Health Law Clinic in the School of Law at University of Pittsburgh. Here’s how to get off the couch and get outside.
Brownsville is the worst-ranked city in the nation when it comes to access to healthy foods, according to the WalletHub study, based on metrics such as fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as farmer’s markets and healthy restaurants per capita. But here’s the good news: This Texas town has the lowest average monthly cost of fitness club memberships. So grab those sneakers, and get thee to the gym! Need exercise motivation? Here’s 11 tricks you haven’t tried.
Among the lowest percentage of physically active adults in the country lives in Detroit. The city also ranks near the bottom when it comes to both access to health care and residential fitness standards, such as fitness clubs per capita and average cost of a fitness membership. But residents can embrace a more active lifestyle even without a gym membership. “Get outside and walk,” recommends Lynn Blewett, the Mayo Professor of Health Policy and Management at the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. “Use the parks, the sidewalks, the walking paths.” And don’t let the weather get you down! Bundle up if it’s cold, or bring extra water if you’re busting a sweat. These are clear signs that you should move more.
Although Laredo has a bad standing in the fitness and food categories—it scored 149 and 146 out of 150 cities, respectively—there’s some good news: The city is top-ranked for access to health care, maintaining one of the lowest average costs of a medical visit in the nation. That’s great for preventative care, if you take advantage of that perk. Check out the most wildly over-inflated hospital costs.
Residents of Toledo will be hard-pressed to find parks or other green spaces, as their city ranks among the least healthy in the nation in this category. “Overall, people are more likely to walk and bike in communities with patterns of development that prioritize walking and biking (and pedestrian safety) over car travel,” says Blewett. These tricks will make your daily walk even healthier.
Newark, New Jersey
It’s little surprise that Newark ranks among the worst cities in America for fitness; it has among the lowest percentage of physically active adults, as well as the fewest running trails per capita. Residents are also less likely to find healthy restaurants in the area. “There are no magic bullets to help make individuals or communities more healthy,” says Donald Taylor, professor of public policy at Duke University. “But, many concerted efforts over long periods of time can make a difference.” These are the best tips to start living healthfully today.
North Las Vegas, Nevada
North Las Vegas has up to five times fewer dietitians and nutritionists per capita than cities that have among the highest. It also scored low on both health care and fitness measures (unless you can call gambling a sport), according to the study. Nutritionists won’t tell you these secrets for free.
Residents of Mobile have among the highest premature death rates in the nation. No surprises there—Mobile ranks among the worst cities in America for access to health care as well as green spaces. When it comes to health care coverage, “buy a health insurance plan that works for your budget and your individual health care needs,” advises Sandy Ahn, associate research professor at Georgetown University.
El Paso, Texas
El Paso has the fewest running and walking trails per capita—up to 54 times fewer than the cities who have the most! Thankfully, residents can still maintain a healthy lifestyle through exercise by nabbing a relatively cheap fitness club membership, according to the study. And if a membership is too steep, the weather is nice enough for all-year outdoor workouts.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Residents of Baton Rouge are among the highest percentage of adults in the nation eating fewer than one serving of fruits or vegetables per day. So it’s no surprise that the city ranks near the bottom for access to healthy food. Although it’s tough to stick to a healthy diet while on a tight budget, you can “save money without sacrificing flavor,” says Michelle Cardel, assistant professor at the University of Florida. Buy fresh produce when it’s in season, and stock up on healthy food items when they’re on sale.
Augusta is the worst-ranked American city for access to green spaces, including parks and hiking, running, and walking trails. It ranks far down the list for health care, as well. These health insurance secrets will shock you.
Corpus Christi, Texas
Corpus Christi ranks near the bottom for access to healthy food, most likely because it also hosts among the least healthy restaurants per capita. These food innovations will make healthy eating (way) easier.
Shreveport received a low score for both access to healthy food and green spaces, according to the study. These are the best habits to help you start eating healthy.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
A lack of green spaces puts Oklahoma’s capital near the bottom of the study’s list of healthy cities.
Although California hosts some of the healthiest cities in the nation, Bakersfield falls short of that honor due to its lack of green spaces and access to health care. If you live there, take advantage of the abundance of produce that’s available all year long.