We can undo legacies of inequitable health outcomes across the nation by adopting a strong, community-centric approach that supports improved well-being across all areas of life, says the Office of the Surgeon General’s “Community Health and Economic Prosperity” report, released recently. And businesses must be stewards and stakeholders in that work.
Central to the report, for which Well Being Trust CEO Tyler Norris was a contributing author, is the fact that poor health is not random. In fact, disparities are most often rooted in one, some, or all of the seven vital conditions — developed by the Well Being in the Nation Network — that contribute to health and well-being:
- Basic needs for health and safety: Access to necessities like clean air and water, nutritious food and a sense of security.
- Humane housing: Access to safe, affordable places to live.
- Reliable transportation: Access to efficient, safe and accessible transportation.
- Thriving natural world: Access to sustainable resources, nature and green spaces, free from environmental hazards.
- Life-long learning: Access to learning opportunities from early childhood education to career and adult education.
- Meaningful work and wealth: Opportunity for rewarding work and standards of living.
- Belonging and civic muscle: A sense of belonging, inclusion and power to shape the world.
Communities that help residents thrive across all of these areas are more likely to be healthy and experience better economic outcomes, too.
According to the report, nearly 60% of residents live below the poverty line, and 92% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch at school. Such concentrated poverty in neighborhoods and schools is associated with poor physical and mental health, as well as low student graduation rates and future earnings. This is because physical and mental health, along with academic achievement are inextricable linked to each other and the conditions in the communities where we live.
To that end, the report recommends businesses play a lead in inspiring change, given their intrinsic roles in communities. From engaging with community partners and institutions to using their hiring and buying power to strengthen local relationships, businesses have a great deal of opportunity to inspire positive change where they are, both to their own benefit and the community’s.
Read the full report here.