To Our Health

GTECH, as many of our readers know, stands for Growth Through Energy and Community Health.  But what is Community Health, exactly?

Wait a minute.  For that matter, what is Health?

It is, presumably, something we all want – for ourselves, our family, our communities, our environment, our planet (sometimes in that order, though that logic may be a bit flawed, as will be made clear shortly).  Nevertheless, what it is, exactly, is a much more complicated question.

An overly simple explanation of health is that it is the opposite of sickness.  You are sick, you go to the doctor, they give you medicine, you are no longer sick; you are healthy.  This sort of reactive approach to health is critical but incomplete.  In reality, nasty germs or other acute dangers aren’t the only things that impact peoples’ health. In some ways, they are really just symptoms of more systemic issues.  Education, employment, environment, culture, connections, transportation, identity – all these things and more impact a person’s overall health.

“Bologna!” you might say.  True! Bologna also makes a difference (one that’s probably not so positive, unfortunately).

While we should definitely still visit our doctors regularly and eat an apple a day and all that, the truth is that a complete picture of any individual’s health is as utterly complex as, and totally inseparable from, the health of the world around them.

That’s why a recent article in The Nation’s Health focuses on the fact that “public health agencies from the local to federal levels are increasingly turning their attention far upstream to social conditions that perpetuate poor health, premature death and disease risk from one generation to the next.”

Doctors and other healthcare professionals call these “upstream” conditions the “Social Determinants of Health.” As it turns out, they’re pretty important:  

“We know that at least 50 percent of health outcomes are due to the social determinants and only 20 percent are due to the clinical care we give them,” [a leading doctor] told The Nation’s Health.  So, health is a big deal and a big challenge; one we should all be doing something about.  For instance:  “If we know that the social, physical and economic environments are fundamentally shaping our health outcomes, then we have to ask what’s shaping those environments…”

We have been asking this question and aiming to provide an answer at GTECH for quite some time.  We don’t just talk about the metaphorical “upstream” conditions, either, but also about the stream itself.  The health of our environment directly affects the health of our communities, which in turn affects the health of individuals. And when we ask what’s shaping those environments, our answer is that it ought to be the people who live in them – it’s their health that’s at stake, after all.  

So, next time you think about your health, think about the health of your community, too. 

Cheers, to OUR health!  


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