America's 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids

A new set of rankings by U.S. News & World Report  highlights the most child-friendly counties in the United States by comparing data on infant deaths, low-birth-weight babies, deaths from injuries, teen births and children in poverty. 

America's 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids represents the first national, county-level assessment of how health and environmental factors affect the well-being of children younger than 18, according to experts who analyzed the report. It was released as part of U.S. News Best Children's Hospitals 2013-2014 in which the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia ranked first in the best children's hospital honor roll category for high scores in a number of specialities.

The numbers show even the highest-ranking counties grapple with such challenges as large numbers of children in poverty and high teen birth rates. Top-ranked Marin County, a northern suburb of San Francisco, struggles with rates of teen births and children in poverty almost twice as high as 5th-ranked metro Milwaukee's Ozaukee County. About 1,200 of the 3,143 counties in the U.S. were evaluated for the rankings.

How did our area stack up? Montgomery County, Pa. came in 35th. It scored 83.4 on a 100 point scale. It has a teen birth rate of 14.9 per 1,000 births compared to the U.S. median of 44 per 1,000 births, and 7.2 percent of children in the county live in poverty compared to the U.S. median of 24 percent.

Here are the top 10:

  1. Marin County, Calif.
  2. San Francisco County, Calif.
  3. Chittenden County, Vt.
  4. Norfolk County, Mass.
  5. Ozaukee County, Wis.
  6. Middlesex County, Mass.
  7. Boulder County, Colo.
  8. Douglas County, Colo.
  9. Montgomery County, Md. and San Mateo County, Calif. (tied)

The rankings were developed with the help of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which evaluates health data for the U.S. population as part of its County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The percentage of uninsured children, air quality (except for Alaska and Hawaii), rates of adult smoking and adult obesity, and access to physicians and parks also were considered in the ranks. All of the variables were equally weighted.

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