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STAR Objective Spotlight: HS-1: Active Living

Healthy Living in 2018

On New Year’s Eve, there is a tradition of taking pause, thinking of the year ahead, and declaring resolutions. The most often cited resolutions involve eating healthier, getting fit, and ending vices, like smoking or excessive drinking.

To ring in 2018, this month STAR Communities is featuring Healthy Living factors from full access subscribers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the CDC Foundation, released their 500 Cities data in December 2017 that summarizes health behaviors in the 500 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S. This data is derived from the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a telephone based survey established in 1984. For the purposes of this article, the data was supplemented for counties with information from the County Health Rankings’ 2015 dataset.

This article focuses on how communities in the STAR network performed on four specific health behaviors: Binge Drinking, Current Smoking, Physical Inactivity, and Obesity. All data sets involve adults aged 18 or older and are based on a percentage of the jurisdiction’s population. In some cases, where 500 Cities data was unavailable, the ranking for smaller communities was based on county values. These are marked with an asterisk.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking alcoholic beverages that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above. Based on body size and gender, this typically happens when someone consumes 4 or 5 drinks in about 2 hours. One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, but it is most common among younger adults aged 18-34. There are several risks associated with binge drinking, including drunk driving accidents, violent behavior, cancer, and chronic disease of the heart and/or liver.

Lowest Binge Drinking Communities

  1. 1. Birmingham, AL
  2. 2. Memphis, TN
  3. 3. Winston-Salem, NC
  4. 4. Montgomery County, MD
  5. 5. Scottsdale, AZ
  6. 6. Wichita, KS & New Bedford, MA (tied)
  7. 7. Phoenix, AZ
  8. 8. Cleveland, OH
  9. 9. Broward County, FL; Peoria, AZ; Las Vegas, NV; and Reading, PA (tied)

Current Smoking

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. More than 480,000 smoking-related deaths occur every year. Over 15% of U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. Smoking-related diseases affect 44% of current smokers. Smoking amongst adults declined by 5.8% between 2005 and 2015. The habit of smoking is particularly high amongst American Indians/Alaska Natives (21.9%) and individuals of multiple races (20.2%). People below the poverty level (26.1%) are nearly twice as likely to smoke in comparison to people at or above the poverty level (13.9%). The states with the highest population of smokers include Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia. The states with the lowest population of smokers include California and Utah.

Lowest Current Smoking Communities

  1. 1. Montgomery County, MD
  2. 2. Bellevue, WA
  3. 3. Santa Monica, CA; Steamboat Springs, CO*; & Dubuque, IA* (tied)
  4. 4. Goleta, CA* & King County, WA (tied)
  5. 5. Scottsdale, AZ
  6. 6. Seattle, WA
  7. 7. Cary, NC

Physical Inactivity

Adults need at least 2.5 hours of physical activity each week. A sedentary lifestyle, or one without regular exercise, may lead to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and even some cancers. One does not need to be classified as obese to experience these effects of physical inactivity. Although the data below focuses on adults, it is worth noting that the risk of physical inactivity to children and youth include long-term impacts to bone strength, muscles, and cardiovascular performance as they grow. Globally, 23% of adults are not active enough. In the U.S., around 45% of adults are not sufficiently active to achieve health benefits.

Lowest Physical Inactivity Communities

  1. 1. Steamboat Springs, CO*
  2. 2. Durango, CO*
  3. 3. Bellevue, WA
  4. 4. Goleta, CA*
  5. 5. Santa Monica, CA & Seattle, WA (tied)
  6. 6. King County, WA
  7. 7. Portland, OR
  8. 8. Montgomery County, MD
  9. 9. Boise, ID


Adult obesity rates have been steadily increasing in since the 1990s. Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index of greater than 30 (source: State of Obesity). Risks associated with obesity include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease, gout, and breathing problems. Nationally, nearly 38% of adults are obese and 8% are extremely obese. States with the lowest obesity rates include Colorado, Washington, DC, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. States with the highest obesity rates include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

Lowest Obesity Communities

  1. 1. Steamboat Springs, CO*
  2. 2. Durango, CO*
  3. 3. Goleta, CA* & Montgomery County, MD (tied)
  4. 4. Bellevue, WA
  5. 5. Santa Monica, CA
  6. 6. Cambridge, MA
  7. 7. Cary, NC
  8. 8. Sarasota County, FL
  9. 9. King County, WA

All Four Factors

Certainly, there are many ways to evaluate health and healthy living. The four selected for this report represent key indicators of the most preventable health behaviors leading to the greatest impact on health. Combining the percent of the population for each factor provides an aggregate value.

Aggregate (lowest sum across all 4 areas)

  1. 1. Montgomery County, MD
  2. 2. Bellevue, WA
  3. 3. Goleta, CA* & Steamboat Springs, CO* (tied)
  4. 4. Santa Monica, CA
  5. 5. King County, WA
  6. 6. Scottsdale, AZ
  7. 7. Cary, NC
  8. 8. Durango, CO*
  9. 9. Seattle, WA

If you are interested in learning more about these health factors or the plethora of other issues impacting your community, download the STAR Community Rating System and encourage your local government to become a full subscriber to STAR Communities. Certified communities have collected a great deal of data and have been subjected to a rigorous review of this data, as well as their programs and policies.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy 2018!

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