Health is shaped not only by biology, but also by where we live, work, learn, and play.

Medical care is a relatively small factor in health outcomes. Social, behavioral, and environmental factors account for 80 percent of a person’s health. These factors are commonly referred to as the social determinants of health and are the building blocks for health and well-being. Examples of social determinants are: age, gender and race, education, housing and neighborhood, employment, social support networks, and access to health care.

Know the social determinants of health.

What it Takes: Aligning Systems and Practices

By investing in prevention and social supports, we can reduce the need for costly and complex health care. Several building blocks are essential for creating and sustaining the health and well-being of families and communities:

  • Employment with sustainable income and workforce supports
  • Affordable health care
  • Livable homes in safe neighborhoods
  • Stable, nurturing relationships and environments
  • Positive and supportive school cultures and climates

Community-based organizations are uniquely positioned to help improve health outcomes, such as those connected to toxic stress, through addressing the social determinants of health with evidence-informed and science-aligned systems and practices.

Families and communities are stronger with access to the building blocks of health and well-being.

Alliance network members and other community-based organizations address the social determinants of health by providing services, engaging communities, and advocating on behalf of policies and systems that support good health and well-being. Because of this, community-based organizations are critical partners in improving health outcomes for children, youth, and adults while reducing health care costs.

All people should have the opportunity to live healthier lives.

Many people also face health disparities due to social inequities and complex needs that affect several generations of families and communities. That’s why it’s important to improve the conditions that lead to poor health outcomes. This is referred to as health equity.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be healthier. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.”

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