Teton County residents live in the healthiest rural community in the country, according to a U.S. News and World Report ranking.
The rankings, done in collaboration with the Aetna Foundation, compare communities with others across the nation of similar geographic status and economic strength.
“It’s always helpful to be able to look at like communities,” Teton County Health Department Director Jodie Pond said.
It’s the second year in a row Teton County was named the healthiest among its rural counterparts.
“People who live in rural communities are more likely to own their homes and live in the state where they were born than those in urban areas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” a summary reads. “And while access to care and transportation barriers can pose challenges, residents of rural communities with high-performing economies typically live in healthier natural environments and fare better in terms of housing than their urban counterparts.”
Categories included in the ranking are population health, equity, education, economy, housing, food and nutrition, environment, public safety, community vitality, and infrastructure. Out of those categories, Teton County scored the lowest in equity and housing.
“Social determinants of health is where we don’t do as well,” Pond said.
Teton is followed by Chaffee County, Colorado; Morgan County, Utah; Routt County, Colorado; and Jefferson County, Montana. The “rural” classification means the places are not metropolitan or micropolitan — areas with substantial central populations and integrated adjacent communities — or are home to fewer than 20 people per square mile.
Compared with all counties nationwide, not just rural, Teton County comes in sixth. That’s an improvement from ninth place in 2016. Pond said the jump is in part attributed to improvements in food insecurity and uninsured rates tracked in the health department’s Healthy Teton County initiative.
“Those are two areas where we’re improving,” she said.
Years ago, she said, 23% of the population was uninsured. That has decreased to 15% in recent years.