What Impacts Health

What Shapes Health and Equity

Many factors contribute to health and the conditions that shape thriving, healthy communities. Societal and political structures, systems and policies all influence and, in many cases, create environments that determine how long and how well people live.

While safe housing, good-paying jobs and well-resourced schools are among the factors that make up the health of a community, it is how these conditions are created and maintained that determines the opportunity for everyone to thrive. As such, supporting healthy communities goes beyond decisions about housing, employment, or education; it requires collective input and the power to shift mindsets and resources.

People and groups who hold power form society’s rules and determine whether they are applied in an equitable manner. Leaving power in the hands of a few creates a path of advantage for some and disadvantage for others. It also depletes opportunities for good health for individuals, groups, communities and even entire regions of the country.

Healthy communities require everyone to work well and to work together. Society’s written and unwritten rules, such as policies, laws and traditions, influence whether we act together to benefit everyone’s health and well-being.

How well we include everyone in setting agendas, making decisions, or sharing resources determines how well these rules structure the conditions of daily living to promote and preserve health for all. Everyone has a role to play and everyone should have a say in creating society’s rules and in determining how they are applied.

People and communities can structure our society so that everyone benefits. We can work across our differences and build solidarity by understanding the root causes of our problems and collectively addressing them. Though history has shaped the rules we live with today, we write a new history every day for which we are all responsible.