Is Your Community Healthy? How to Find Out — and Why It Matters

Dr. Alisahah Jackson

While your individual health is unique to you, it is also affected or influenced by factors beyond the actions you take or the care you receive. In fact, 80% of what impacts your health happens outside of clinical care delivery — in your community, meaning the conditions in your community can have significant impacts on the health of you and your family. So it’s important to discover how you can learn about your community’s health and take action to help improve it. 

What are the social determinants of health?

Part of a community’s health is impacted by social determinants of health. These are the conditions in your community that affect health and quality of life. Key examples include safe housing, transportation, education and literacy as well as racism, discrimination, access to nutritious food and opportunities for physical activity.

How can you be informed about your community’s health?

You can learn more about what’s happening in your community that can affect everyone’s health through community health needs assessments. If there is a nonprofit system or hospital in your community, they are required to complete an assessment every three years and post it on their website. Your county health department also is required to provide a health needs assessment every three years. Here’s an example of what a community health assessment looks like; this one was completed for Franklin County, Ohio

A community health assessment dives into the top determinants of health — issues facing your local community, including medical conditions as well as social issues. The assessments also frequently serve as the basis for implementation plans to address those issues. 

How can you help improve your community’s health?

Start by being informed about your community’s health. You can also get involved in efforts to solve the most pressing problems your community faces. If there is a particular issue (or social determinant) you’re interested in, you can contribute from a philanthropic or volunteer standpoint or by advocating for community issues, from more parks to encourage exercise or more healthy food options in the area.

Being informed about your community’s health and getting involved will ultimately drive the change we need to improve the health of yourself, your family and friends, and our world.