Why does Place Matter when it comes to personal and population health?
In so many ways, where we live determines how we live. Health starts in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities. Healthy behaviors may seem to be based on individual choices, but those choices are profoundly influenced by environmental factors that are often out of the control of the individual. Over the past decade, leading health agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared the significance of place by stressing the role of the “social determinants of health.”
What are the Social Determinants of Health?
These are the factors that surround us every day: the social, economic, and physical conditions in which we are born, grow, learn, work, play, and age. Key areas include the following:
- Economic Stability (employment, housing, poverty)
- Education (early childhood education, high school graduation, literacy)
- Social and Community Context (social cohesion and support, participation in civic life)
- Neighborhood and the “Built Environment” (ability to walk/bike safely, access to healthy food)
- Health Care (access to primary care and other services, health literacy)
Research confirms these conditions play a significant role in shaping not only our behavior choices but our health itself—perhaps as much as 80 percent. Understanding the role of the social determinants of health helps us understand the relationship between how people experience their “place” and how their “place” affects their health.
What does this mean to Kansans?
The more we understand what shapes our health, the more we can advocate for opportunities and policies that help all Kansans achieve better health.
What can we do to help ourselves and others?
- Be informed. Know your county health rankings, and get involved in local efforts to make your community a healthier place to live.
- Support efforts that promote the social determinants of health: education, affordable housing, healthy food access, walkable communities, and access to health coverage.
- Lead by example. Adopt healthy behaviors and support others as they try to lead healthier lives.
- Promote a culture of health and civil discourse. Participation in public life is an important part of overall community health, regardless of the direct connection to health. Get involved!
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