How Healthy is Your Community?

It’s not just people who can be sick or healthy. Your community can, too. But what does that mean? What does a healthy community look like?

Path to improved health

The World Health Organization says health is more than just not being sick. It is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well being. A community is the same. A healthy community is one that supports and improves the health of the people who live there. There are many things that can make a community healthy. Here are some of the most common.

Increased physical activity

Physical health is a very important part of overall health. Healthy communities have many opportunities for physical activity. These can include:

  • Biking and hiking trails for exercise
  • Parks and green spaces for recreation
  • Sidewalks to encourage safe walking
  • Bike lanes in the roads
  • Access to public transportation so people don’t have to rely on their cars all the time
  • Schools within easy walking distance of residential areas.

Efforts to promote safety

Areas that are designed to reduce people’s reliance on their cars help improve safety. The more people are out walking or riding a bike to get somewhere, the fewer cars are on the road. This helps reduce the risk and occurrence of car crashes. A healthy community highlights pedestrians by having well-marked and lit sidewalks, crosswalks, and bicycle paths. This encourages people to use them, and it helps keep those people safe.

Access to healthy food

Good nutrition is vital to our health, especially for growing children and teens. A healthy community gives people easy access to nutritious foods. This could be through grocery stores, farmers markets, and community gardens.

Air and water quality

The main thing that contributes to poor air quality is transportation, especially cars. A community can help reduce the amount of pollution in the air by encouraging:

  • use of public transportation
  • carpooling
  • walking
  • bicycling.

Water quality is affected by large amounts of concrete or pavement on the ground. This disrupts the natural water cycle. A healthy community preserves green space to encourage the water cycle to do its job. It also provides its residents with clean drinking water at all times.

A strong social fabric

Mental and emotional aspects of health are just as important as the physical. Social bonds between people and groups are important to our health. A community that promotes this is healthier. A community that has a strong social fabric feels like a community. People know each other. Children play together. People are involved in the community. They participate in neighborhood improvement projects or community-wide events like block parties.

Other elements of a healthy community include:

  • Access to healthcare. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, or walk-in clinics provide community members with the health care they need.
  • Plenty of employment opportunities help residents stay in their community and be productive members of society.
  • Every child needs to have access to an education in their community.

Things to consider

When you look around at your community, what do you see? Are there people out being physically active? Is it safe? Are there places you can get healthy foods? Do you have access to health care, employment, and education? If your answer to any of these questions is no, your community might not be as healthy as it could be. If you want to do something about it, start with your city council. Go to a meeting. Talk with city leaders. Find out what you can do to help your community be healthier. Then you can be healthier, too.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What do you think a healthy community looks like?
  • How does my community contribute to my health?
  • What can I do to help make my community a healthier one?

Resources

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