2 South Texas border cities rated unhealthiest in US, study finds

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Many Brownsville families attend the annual BISD Children’s Charro Days Parade in downtown Brownsville, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A recent study ranked two South Texas border cities as the unhealthiest in the United States, a finding that continues to perpetuate a trend of rampant obesity that the region has been fighting to shed for nearly a decade.

The website WalletHub.com today released the results of the 2020 Healthiest & Unhealthiest Cities in America, which found Laredo and Brownsville are in the bottom five of most unhealthy cities in America. Out of 174 cities studied, Brownville is ranked as the unhealthiest city; Laredo, which is about 200 miles northwest and still along the border with Mexico, is ranked the second unhealthiest city.

The top five healthiest cities in America included: San Francisco; Seattle; San Diego; Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C.

Read the WalletHub study on most unhealthiest cities here.

While San Diego ranked 3rd, nearby Chula Vista ranked 77th.

El Paso, Texas, which is also located on the U.S.-Mexico border ranked 129th out of 174. Las Cruces, N.M., which is about 40 miles north of the border ranked 140th.

Source: WalletHub

The ratings were based on 43 “key indicators of good health,” according to the study. This included:

  • Access to health care
  • Access to good nutrition
  • Gym costs
  • Green space areas and the quality of parks
  • Mental health counselors and family doctors per capita
  • Dietitians and nutritionists per capita
  • Cost of medical and dental visits
  • Prescription costs
  • Healthy restaurants per capita
  • Share of obese residents
  • Fitness trainers per capita
  • Number of hiking and biking trails

The study found that both Laredo and Brownsville had the lowest percentage of physically active adults of any US city. Laredo had the fewest physically adults active in the entire nation; Brownsville was ranked fourth-worst. Seattle had the most physically active adults.

Other study findings:

  • Laredo had the fewest number of healthy restaurants of any city; Portland had the most.
  • Brownsville had the second-fewest number of dietitians and nutritionists of any city, besides Cape Coral, Fla.; Fargo, N.D., had the most.
  • Brownsville had the third-fewest walking trails per capita; San Francisco had the most.

“When a city doesn’t take care of these issues, it can be hard to keep up good health. After all, the cost of care in the U.S. is rising and life expectancy is declining,” the study found.

Study co-author Martine Hackett, an assistant professor of Health Professions at Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y., advised communities in the bottom tier to do the following: “Listen to community members, respond to their requests, and focus on prevention.”

Missing from the list was McAllen, Texas, which WalletHub in 2018 listed as “the most obese city” in America along with the South Texas border cities of Mission and Edinburg.

A 2012 Gallup-Healthways poll rated McAllen-Mission-Edinburg as the most obese metro area in the nation.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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