We can’t be afraid to name the reason why health inequities exist – racism, ageism, ableism, sexism, classism and all the other ways we decide who gets access, resources and opportunity.MD, MPH, FACEP , Vice President and Chief Health Equity Officer at CVS Health, former Chief Medical Executive for the State of Michigan and former Chief Deputy Director for Health for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
When you think of the word health, what comes to mind? Like many others, you may associate health with the care you receive as a patient at a hospital, doctor’s office or urgent care. However, there is much more to health than that. According to Jacquelynn Orr in an article titled Connecting Systems to Build Health Equity, “To live the healthiest life possible, people need access not only to appropriate providers and treatment but also, at times, help dealing with housing instability, food insecurity, social isolation, financial strain, interpersonal violence and other social determinants of health.” Social determinants of health are defined as the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning and quality of life outcomes and risks (Healthy People 2030).
Not only do these factors affect health outcomes, but they are rooted in, and contribute to, health disparities and inequities amongst populations. Health inequities are influenced by economic, social and public policies, for example Jim Crow laws and redlining. Where we live can limit access to resources that allow us to thrive including access to safe housing, nutritious food, a good education and recreational activities. Access to resources and opportunities can have a downstream effect on our health and create disparities between groups based on socio-economic status, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender expression.
The above statistics are examples of various social determinants of health. At the local level, community health needs assessments are conducted periodically to develop strategies to address these types of disparities. A community health needs assessment is defined by the Centers for Disease Control as the process of community engagement; collection, analysis and interpretation of data on health outcomes and health determinants; identification of health disparities; and identification of resources that can be used to address priority needs. In the resources below you will find links to Community Health Needs Assessments from Detroit, Oakland County and Macomb County. Identifying and addressing priority needs within a community enables those who live within the community to thrive by removing barriers to providers and treatment, housing, food, transportation, social connection and more.