When I first read the title, I already got a question: what means hardest places? It is complicated to define a place as is hard or not. Besides, I cannot agree to equal "place" to "county."
Also, I don't think healthy and wealthy can be directly linked to hard or easy.
It might be true that the author did a lot of work on collecting, sort out data and visualize it, and it is also true that the author did a pretty Geo-analysis map. However, he didn't give the reason why he picked up those six data points: education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity.
Neither did he proved authoritative about using this category.
Moreover, the news report didn't show how these six factors play roles in the whole dataset and what the weight it is. Since these reasons made the research indeed uncertainty and unreliable, the following analysis, based on the dataset are also skeptical.