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CDC 500 Cities Project maps health-related behaviors

March 4, 2017

Though you may consider yourself friendly with the neighbors, we’re betting a new tool will have you seeing them in a whole new light.

This week the CDC’s 500 Cities Project posted data on 27 health-related measures from the agency’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Not only does the site have fascinating health data about some of the country’s 500 largest cities, but it also breaks the data down by census tract, meaning you can get a pretty granular view.

The maps — which include self-reported rates of arthritis, binge drinking, and cholesterol screenings, among other things — are of course a useful resource for policymakers or public health officials.

But they’re also just fun for browsing, a place to pick up trivia about your home city or perhaps to spy on the health habits of your neighbors. To get you started, we’ve turned up these fascinating insights below:

Provo, Utah, is — perhaps unsurprisingly — pretty good about making healthy choices. The city boasts some of the lowest rates of binge drinking and smoking in the country. However, Provoans may be a little complacent; the city also has the second-lowest rate of annual checkups (54.9 percent).

 

Sleepless in Seattle? Not so much. About 30 percent of adult Seattleites get less than seven hours of sleep. That sounds like a lot, until you compare that rate to the eastern seaboard, where the number is nearly 40 percent. Coloradans get the best night’s sleep; the three cities with the lowest rates of sleepless nights are all just outside of Denver.

California has among the lowest rates of obesity. Of the 20 cities with the lowest obesity rates, only three were not in California.

Indiana boasts cities with the highest and the lowest rate of dental visits. Just under 80 percent of the adults in Carmel, Ind., get regular checkups, while only 39 percent of the people in Gary, 150 miles away, get into the office.

Burlington, Vt., has slightly higher binge-drinking rates than the national average. But there’s one census tract in particular where the rates are five percentage points higher. It’s almost like lots of people in their early 20s live in the area — which happens to be near the University of Vermont — or something.

The project also allows up to three cities to be compared at a time. Take Albany, N.Y., and Albany, Ga., as a (not-at-all random) example. Both cities have about the same cancer rates as the US average (5.9 percent). But while residents in New York’s Albany have higher health insurance rates (only 14.8 percent are uninsured) than their Georgian counterparts (nearly 30 percent are uninsured), they actually make it to the doctor for their annual checkup slightly less often (73.8 percent and 75.8 percent, respectively).

Comparisons between neighboring cities, like Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., can also be enlightening. The two cities have very disparate health insurance rates: Missourians are more likely to have coverage (just 17 percent uninsured versus the Kansas City, Kan., rate of 30 percent). However, while Kansas City residents under 65 years old get basic preventive care at about the same rates regardless of their home state, that’s not true for adults over 65. Seniors in Missouri are more likely to be up to date on their shots and screenings than those in Kansas — by about a nine percentage point difference.

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