What makes a community healthy? According to the Lincy Institute, health isn’t just determined by the lack of illness, but also by the all-around wellbeing of residents physically, mentally, and socially. Here are 10 factors that contribute to a healthy and happy community. 

Education

Education isn’t just about being smart. Studies show that children who do poorly in school have a higher risk of being physically unhealthy than adults. Quality education is also linked to the socio-economic background since poorer communities often have access to lower-quality education programs due to funding. Better and higher education leads to a higher quality of life and longevity, as well as less substance abuse

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Employment/Income

There is a strong connection between consistent employment and good health. Unemployed individuals usually have “higher levels of impaired mental health including depression, anxiety, and stress as well as higher levels of mental health hospital admissions, chronic disease (cardiovascular disease, hypertension, musculoskeletal disorders) and premature mortality.” 

Unemployment is also linked to higher drug, alcohol, and cigarette use. This doesn’t mean that people not working are automatically compelled to drink and smoke. However, external stresses of being unemployed, as well as the extra unstructured time, influence these choices. 

Transportation 

Reliable and safe transportation is essential for having access to healthcare, jobs, public facilities (like parks), grocery stores, and being able to socialize. Walking, while healthy, can be dangerous, especially if you have to walk through unsafe neighborhoods or highways. Plus, walking everywhere isn’t sustainable, especially in spaced-out areas. Thus, being able to take a bus or a train is essential for a healthy community. 

Exercise and Nutrition 

Eating correctly, maintaining a healthy weight, and moving enough are all important for general health and chronic disease prevention in a community. The Lincy Institute states that “people are more likely to be physically active or to maintain a healthy weight if they live in a community which supports physical activity and healthy eating.” Well-maintained sidewalks, low traffic and crime, walking and cycling trails, parks, public recreational facilities, and even a lack of graffiti all help get people out and move more. 

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Healthcare 

Healthcare and health insurance seem to go hand in hand in the United States. Individuals without health insurance or more likely to push visiting the doctor or getting a prescription because of cost. Children also bear the weight of not having access to affordable healthcare or health insurance, and won’t get the preventative healthcare they need to grow into healthy adults. 

Investing in Community 

Putting money back into the community improves the lives of its residents. It’s projected that a $10 investment per person per year in “community-based health promotion programs” would create 1.7 billion dollars in savings for the state of California in three years. Eating better, moving more, not smoking, and drinking less are the focuses of these community programs. 

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Well-Built Homes

Unsafe or poorly-maintained homes can negatively affect those who live in them. They can make them sick or increase the risk for household accidents. Lead poisoning is higher in houses built before 1978. Other concerns include neurotoxins like pesticides, bad ventilation, pests, damp and mold. 

Sex Education 

Proper sex education teaches teenagers how to be safe, including how to avoid STIs and STDs. It also gives them more knowledge about relationships and consent, not just sex itself. When they receive the correct information they need and deserve to know, they can make the right choices regarding their bodies and relationships. 

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Clean Water 

According to the World Health Organisation, convenient access to water can “boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.” Contaminated water is also incredibly dangerous, and can spread diseases like diarrhea, typhoid, polio, cholera, and dysentery. Access to water also means that households don’t have to spend hours a day walking to and from a well. Instead, they can use that time to focus on education, building a career, or spending time with family. 

Protection Against Domestic Violent 

Women are safer in communities that reduce the risk of sexual violence. Having a safe place to ask for help, or just living in a society that believes women and protects them from domestic violence is an important part of women living healthy, violence-free lives. 

Safe, clean, healthy, and happy homes make a healthy community. Some of these factors are objectively more important than others, but together they significantly improve the lives of a community’s residents, especially the lives of the children. Hopefully, our leaders will take these into account and prioritize people rather than corporations. It’s time that money be invested into communities and their wellbeing, rather than just continuing to find last-minute bandaid solutions to pervasive issues. 

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