Howard County is the healthiest county in the state, according to a new ranking of counties across the U.S. released this week.
The rankings were released by University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and assessed the health of nearly every county in the country.
Researchers looked at health within counties by examining health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors as well as the physical environment, according to a press release. The rankings also take into account the number of fast food restaurants in a community, as well as how physically active or inactive residents are.
In Howard County, where Howard County General Hospital is located, the ratio of the population to primary care physicians was 391 to 1, compared to 631 to 1 in the state as a whole.
Also, 8 percent of Howard County residents are uninsured, compared to 11 percent nationally, and 13 percent in Maryland, data shows.
Fewer adults smoke, are physically inactive and get in deadly crashes in Howard County than in other parts of Maryland or in the nation, according to the study.
Howard County is also the third wealthiest county in the nation and has made headlines in recent years for health initiatives such as the Healthy Howard Plan, which helps uninsured residents get affordable access to health care.
Also, in July of 2011, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman signed into law a ban on smoking in 57 parks.
Howard County health officials on Tuesday also pointed to regulations that the county enacted in 2009 to restrict minors from tanning. The ban on 18-year-olds from using tanning beds was the first of its kind in the nation, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Baltimore City, which lagged behind the state in premature death rates, low birth rates, smoking and other factors, was ranked 24th in Maryland, as the least healthiest area of the state, according to the study.
A sampling of other county rankings in Maryland: Montgomery County was ranked second in the state, Carroll County was fifth; Anne Arundel was 10th, Baltimore County was 13th and Prince George’s was 15th.