July 20 2015

At The California Endowment, we know that health care doesn’t necessarily assure health. There are number of other factors called the “social determinants of health” that also play a role in how healthy or unhealthy we are. These factors include:

  • Income and social status – higher income and social status are linked to better health. The greater the gap between the richest and poorest people, the greater the differences in health.
  • Education – low education levels are linked with poor health, more stress and lower self-confidence.
  • Physical environment – safe water and clean air, healthy workplaces, safe houses, communities and roads all contribute to good health. Employment and working conditions – people in employment are healthier, particularly those who have more control over their working conditions
  • Social support networks – greater support from families, friends and communities is linked to better health. Culture – customs and traditions, and the beliefs of the family and community all affect health.
  • Genetics – inheritance plays a part in determining lifespan, healthiness and the likelihood of developing certain illnesses. Personal behavior and coping skills – balanced eating, keeping active, smoking, drinking, and how we deal with life’s stresses and challenges all affect health.
  • Health services – access and use of services that prevent and treat disease influences health

Thus, we have 14 communities across the state working to address those factors by advocating for changes in the systems and policies that perpetuate the poor health of low-income and marginalized neighborhoods. We are now five years into the 10-year Building Healthy Communities plan and are thrilled to see others have joined this conversation and are working toward improved health for all.

The Endowment’s Dr. Tony Iton coined the phrase, “Tell me your zip code and I’ll tell you your life expectancy.” When he first introduced this more than 6 years ago, it wasn’t widely regarded as the barometer of community health. Times have changed and now others are using zip codes as an indicator of a community’s health.

Specifically, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Federal Reserve System have partnered to create The Healthy Communities Initiative which was designed to enrich the debate on how cross-sector and place-based approaches to revitalize low-income communities might both revitalize neighborhoods and improve health. The idea is simple: those who work on making low-income communities function better (by building high-quality affordable housing, financing small businesses, and creating community assets such as charter schools, clinics, or daycare centers) should work closely with the health sector to coordinate those community-improving efforts in a way that promotes better health outcomes over the life course. The Federal Reserve System and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation created the Healthy Communities Initiative to encourage stronger linkages between the two sectors and move them forward towards a healthier future.

They’ve also produced a great video that provides a clear explanation of how health can be achieved for all communities by bringing together community development and the health sector to revitalize the health of low-income communities. We encourage you to check it out!

Click here to view Healthy Communities Initiative resources.

Now check out The California Endowment’s video about where health really happens.

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