What are the key factors that influence your health and the health of others in our community?
Most of us think first about the health care system and your access to quality care.
In the 2009 report of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Health, only 25% of the health of the population was attributable to the health care system. 15% was due to individual biology (i.e. genetics) and 10% to environmental factors such as air quality and civic infrastructure.
The remaining 50% was due to a variety of social determinants, including poverty, work conditions, housing, diet and community factors.
In the winter and spring of 2013, the Canadian Medical Association held town hall meetings in cities across the country and consulted widely online. The CMA’s report – Healthcare in Canada: What Makes Us Sick? – was released in July 2013. Poverty was found to be the most significant determinant of illness. Other significant determinants included access to affordable and safe housing, early childhood development and education.
Most of us have a good idea of what we need to do in order to live healthier lives.
Exercise, eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke or use recreational drugs, limit alcohol, reduce stress and maintain good relationships.
Yet for most of us, there are barriers to doing all the right things.
Due to poverty, many families struggle to get food on the table. To eat 5 or more fruits or vegetables a day is not affordable. Others are unable to find safe and affordable housing. Some neighbourhoods do not have easy access to transit, community centres, parks or safe areas to walk.
The global healthy cities and community movement is working to engage communities, cities and governments to address the social determinants of health and to work together to improve the health of the population.
You now have an opportunity to get involved. My Health My Community is a major public survey currently being conducted by the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities. The online survey is seeking to identify the health supports you need in your neighbourhood. It will identify the barriers to healthy living, including access to services, housing, recreational facilities, affordable food, mobility, transportation and language.
The six main areas covered in the survey are (1) sociodemographics, (2) health status, (3) lifestyle, (4) health care access, (5) the built environment and (6) community belonging.
In this project, the health authorities are partnering with local government and community organizations as the survey will provide a greater understanding of the needs of our communities and allow informed action to address them.
We are all responsible for the health of our community.