ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) —  Howard County was ranked number eight in U.S. News and World Reports in their 2021 list of healthiest communities. The county is the only Maryland jurisdiction in the top 50 rankings.

Howard County was also ranked number six in its peer group or urban, high-performing communities across the nation.

READ MORE: Sunflowers To Bloom In Jarrettsville In About 60 Days

“We are constantly working to improve the health of our neighbors, family, and friends here in Howard County,” said Ball. “Since taking office, we’ve worked to ensure all our residents can be healthy and thriving – launching new technology to reduce health disparities, investing in health factors like access to healthy foods and creating a more walkable community. We’ve improved across categories in the past three years – but perhaps most significantly, we’ve seen a marked increase in our health equity from 40.5 in 2018 to 55.4 in 2021. This recognition means a lot to our community of partners who have advocated and invested in public health and health equity for many years. This past year, as we confronted a deadly pandemic, we were reminded how important our health is – how we cannot take it for granted, and how foundational it is to our quality of life.”

The categories include:

  • Population Health
  • Equity
  • Education
  • Economy
  • Housing
  • Food & Nutrition
  • Environment
  • Public Safety
  • Community Vitality
  • Infrastructure

Howard County’s population health score, the highest weighted category, increased from 65.6 in 2018 to 91.2 in 2021. Howard County officials emphasized health initiatives aimed at improving contributing factors to overall population health.

READ MORE: Baltimore Trash Wheels Adopted By Pompeian Olive Oil

“Moving forward, we must all double down on our work to make good health and well-being achievable for all,” said Nikki Highsmith Vernick, The Horizon Foundation President and CEO. “The Horizon Foundation remains a committed partner in our collective work to make Howard County a place where EVERYONE can live a longer, healthier and better life.”

“Improving the public health of everyone who lives in, works in, or visits Howard County has remained the mission of the Howard County Health Department since our beginnings more than 85 years ago,” said Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer. “This recognition would not be possible without the hard work of everyone at the Howard County Health Department and strategic partnerships with County Government leadership, other County agencies and the many community groups working to support the health and wellness of our residents.”

Howard County’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was also highlighted.  To date, 65.1 percent of all residents are fully vaccinated, and 76.9 percent of residents12 and older are fully vaccinated. The Howard County General Hospital reported zero covid-19 patients on Monday — the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

“For many years Howard County has made a healthy community a top priority, that dedication, drive, and emphasis on partnerships, those form the strong foundation that got us here today,” said Dr. Elizabeth Kromm, Howard County General Hospital Vice President of Population Health and Advancement. These are also the things that helped us deal effectively with the pandemic and made Howard County a leader in the COVID-19 response. We hit a milestone yesterday at the hospital. For the first time in over 480 days, since the pandemic began, we have zero COVID-19 patients in the hospital.”

MORE NEWS: Moving Forward With Private Police Plans, Johns Hopkins Hires Former Police Commissioner As Public Safety VP

“The collective energy and strength of the organizations and individuals that are part of the Howard County Local Health Improvement Coalition is amplified to address health disparities,” said Kelly Kesler, Howard County Local Health Improvement Coalition Director. “We do this by engaging in coordinated communications and outreach to support awareness of, and access to, evidence-based programs that address behavioral health, healthy aging across the lifespan and chronic disease prevention.”

CBS Baltimore Staff