For the first time in a century studies indicate that Americans’ life expectancy has decreased over the past three years, and it is not just due to the coronavirus.
Research studies from the University of Wisconsin show that only twenty percent of a person’s overall health is attributable to access and quality of health care services. The rest depends on social, economic, environmental, mental, and personal behavior factors.
Public health campaigns to improve sanitation and eradicate epidemics have saved millions of lives. The healthy communities movement seeks to fixing what we know are social causes of poor health — poverty, racial and economic inequity, social isolation, acute stress, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and detrimental personal behavior.
The central idea of an emerging community health movement suggests that we can restore America’s declining health by focusing on a set of “vital conditions” for community wellbeing, including: meaningful work, humane housing, robust community, public spaces and institutions, healthy environments (clean air, water and food). Access to these resources supports the quality and length of life. Lacking these conditions leads to illness and premature death.
Another emphasis for the community health movement is the fact that one in four Americans experiences a mental health challenge in any given year— the highest rate among countries in a study conducted by the World Health Organization. Our communities need to step in and expand resources and help those struggling with their mental health.
Vivek Murthy, former U.S. surgeon general said: “I have come to believe that emotional well-being is the foundation on which we build everything else in society.” The future of healthcare lies in investing in healthy communities, and helping people know, that they belong, and have value.
Corporate news media have not written extensively about the full scope and promise of the community health movement.
Source: Jay Walljasper, “For Healthy Communities, Look Beyond Diet and Exercise,” Yes Magazine!, July 18, 2019, https://www.yesmagazine.org/opinion/2019/07/19/health-diet-exercise-communities-inequality.
Student Researcher: Autumn Kearns (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)