JACKSON — There are 3,143 counties and county equivalents (parishes, independent cities and the like) in the United States.
Out of that immense number, Teton County has been ranked the 13th healthiest by U.S. News and World Report, a publication that ranks a plethora of things from colleges to mutual funds. In that latest ranking, which was recently released, the county scored well in many categories, but the numbers showed several concerning trends that are dragging community health lower.
The report looks at many facets of community health, from actual health outcomes to socioeconomic conditions that impact people’s ability to thrive, and scores them out of 100. Overall, Teton County got a score of 86 out of 100, good for 13th overall and second in Wyoming just behind Sublette County.
Los Alamos County, New Mexico, took the top spot for the second year in a row. The Mountain West took many of the top spots, with seven of the top 10 in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, though five were in the Centennial State (Colorado). Adding in Wyoming’s two, nine of the top 13 were in this region.
Teton County improved over last year, when it was ranked 22nd healthiest. One of the most striking pieces of information is that you’re likely to live much longer in Teton County than the rest of the United States. The national life expectancy is 77.5 years, but the average Teton resident lives to be 89.5, a full 12 years older.
By sheer numbers, the county scored pretty well, with most factors being ranked favorably. Unsurprisingly, it scored highly on factors like the environment (92 out of 100), overall health (85) and infrastructure (90). It did less well on things like equity (57), housing (60) and public safety (53).
Those good categories were buoyed by the national parks and abundant public lands, along with a generally strong economy.
The economic scores show the difficulty in ranking counties without taking a closer look at their individual conditions, however. The report notes that just 6.2 percent of the population is below the federal poverty line, well below the national rate of 14.2%, but anyone who has had to pay rent in Teton County knows that the line for economic insecurity is much higher locally than the poverty line.
As for the negatives outlined in the report, they track with the findings of the most recent Community Health Needs Assessment, which showed that people were worried about housing and growing income inequality.