The Community section of the SHA describes many characteristics of the communities in which the people of New Hampshire live, learn, work, and play. This includes infrastructure and other natural assets, as well as some measures of how people interact and feel about their communities.

The key factors in this section were selected to demonstrate what “Community” looks like in NH are:

Key Findings

New Hampshire is a state with many natural, cultural, and social resources that contribute to a positive community experience for many residents. Our crime rates are generally low, ample recreational outdoor spaces are distributed across the state, and numerous networks of service and supports exist to strengthen family and individual wellness.

What does Community look like in NH?


  • State parks: NH has 93 state parks and an array of historic sites and recreational trails, located in every part of the state.
  • Bodies of water: NH has 51 bodies of water, which include many lakes, ponds, and rivers.
  • Forests: NH is the second most forested state in the US, with forests making of 4.8 million acres (~81%) of its land area. 27% of NH forest land is federally, state, or otherwise publicly owned.
Easy access to recreational spaces

When prompted to list the types of community resources they had trouble accessing in the past year, 2021 Community Engagement Survey respondents reported green space, parks, and other recreational spaces as the least challenging.


Aside from the NH Department of Health and Human Services, the state is home to only two local health departments (Manchester and Nashua). Towns and municipalities generally have limited capacity to provide public health, wellness, and family support services. This means that important programs that promote residents’ health, safety, and wellness are often provided by local agencies organized by region – most often, but not exclusively, by county.

These agencies – generally comprised of hospitals, community-based social service agencies, and even the Manchester and Nashua Health Departments – often receive multiple contracts from NH DHHS to provide a variety of regional services. While programs report the number of people who receive services, it’s not possible to obtain a unique count of NH residents who receive multiple services from these agencies due to a lack of shared data systems across programs and contracts.

The most prominent regional networks include:

  • Regional Public Health Networks:  NH Division of Public Health Services funds 13 agencies to convene, coordinate, and facilitate an ongoing network of partners to address regional public health needs within their region.
  • Area Agencies:  NH Bureau of Developmental Services funds 10 agencies to provide a range of services and supports individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities or acquired brain disorders and their families.
  • The Doorway: NH Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services contracts with 9 community hospitals to provide assistance to residents looking to access any level of substance use disorder treatment or support.
  • Family Resource Centers: Family Support New Hampshire (FSNH) is a coalition of 10 Family Resource Centers designed to strengthen families by providing support and education through a number of programs and services including parenting classes, playgroups, and after school assistance.
  • ServiceLink Resource Centers:  ServiceLink is a program of the NH Department of Health and Human Services which contracts with local agencies and supports 13 Resource Centers to help individuals access and make connections to long-term services and supports, access family caregiver information and supports, explore options, and understand and access Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Community Action Agencies: New Hampshire Community Action Partnership (NHCAP) is a collaboration of 5 Community Action Agencies which aim to strengthen communities through appropriate resources including housing assistance, affordable childcare, emergency food programs, weatherization, and energy assistance.
  • Local Health Officers: Health Officers also play a role in investigating, enforcing, and resolving local public health issues and educating the community on these issues.


Overall, NH is a safe place to live for the majority of people. At 153 crimes per 100,000 population, NH has the second lowest violent crime rate in the country, as of 2019.

People feel safe in their communities

More than four out of 5 respondents (82%) to the 2021 Community Engagement Survey reported that their community is a safe place to live, and 79% report that their town or region is a safe place to work.

According to data from 2019-2020, in New Hampshire, 14.5% of children experienced two or more adverse childhood events (ACEs), compared to 14.8% of children across the country. Rates of relevant ACE’s experienced by NH children, compared to US rates are as follows:

Witness domestic violence

  • New Hampshire 4% 4%
  • United States 5% 5%

Neighborhood violence

  • New Hampshire 3.5% 3.5%
  • United States 4% 4%

Witness substance use

  • New Hampshire 10% 10%
  • United States 9% 9%
Concerns for child safety in schools

“I need to send my kids to school but am not feeling they are safe (violence, drug use) – I feel like no supports are available.” – Spanish language listening session participant 


Exposure to environmental chemicals and compounds is an important issue for New Hampshire, with many issues related to land type and use. Environmental health topics that are key for New Hampshire include drinking water quality, lead poisoning, and air quality. Detailed data about these issues are available from the NH DHHS Data Portal.

New Hampshire homes are supported by a mix of private and public water supplies; over 40% of homes are served by private wells. Newly developed tracking systems are providing improved information about the environmental exposures in these water supplies, in both public and private systems. Data indicated that 25% of private wells exceed health limits in contaminants, such as arsenic.

The NH Department of Environmental services samples and tracks water quality of four PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) compounds. A map of the presence of these four compounds in surface and groundwater across the state can be found at the NH DES website. NH DHHS also provides reporting about the PFAS monitoring program.

Lead poisoning

In 2019, 28% of NH children aged 6 and younger were tested for elevated blood lead levels (equal to or greater than 5 µg/dL). Tests confirmed 3% of NH children had elevated blood lead levels. This varied by county, ranging from 1% in Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties to 5% in Cheshire and Coos Counties.

Universal blood testing for lead is an important part of screening and treating for lead exposure in children. With school-based programs and health care visits diminished greatly due to COVID-19, there was a 14% decrease in blood lead screening during 2020 in New Hampshire.


Radon is a naturally occurring gas that emanates from soil and bedrock, and is a particularly important exposure risk in the Granite State. In 2016, the NH Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Program reported that 30% of homes tested throughout NH exhibited radon concentrations above the EPA recommended level of 4.0 pCi/L. Concentrations varied by county, ranging from 12% in Sullivan County to 41% in Carroll and Strafford Counties.


NH is home to nine Regional Planning Commissions (RPCs), which support local towns and cities through planning and community development, providing professional planning services, helping to secure funds for transportation and infrastructure projects, working to obtain and administer state and federal grants, and reducing local costs through regional coordination and cooperation. NH is dependent on personal vehicles as access to public transportation is minimal. The data below primarily reflects the 2016-2020 American Community Survey results.

Miles of roads (2022)


Drove a car, truck, or van to work (2016-2020)

Mean travel time to work (minutes) (2016-2020)

The proportion of employed New Hampshire residents teleworking at least one day per week  peaked in February 2021 at 42%, but has dropped to 30% as of July 2022.

What do we still need to explore?

  • What are the variations in the access and ability to use the natural recreation resources?
  • The need for services varies by geography and demographic groups. It is unclear how easy or difficult it is to access those services. Are there gaps in social service infrastructure?
  • The clinical impact of environmental exposures, especially combined exposures, is unclear. How do the environmental factors interact?
  • The feeling of how safe NH is, as a place to live, may vary between geographic and demographic groups.
  • Will the commuting patterns continue to change, and if so, what will that mean for NH?