People, Places, and Health Impacts in Our Communities
By Danielle Amarant, University of Georgia College of Public Health Masters Candidate and Atlanta BeltLine Partnership Intern
Our health and the health of our communities are informed by everything we do. From our behaviors and choices to the policies that shape our systems and institutions, our well-being is also affected by where we live, learn, play, work, and age, as well as the socioeconomic opportunities available to us.
These factors, the social determinants of health (SDOH), are often organized into categories to show how each connects to our health. The categories are
- Healthcare Access/Quality
- Education Access/Quality
- Social and Community Context
- Economic Stability
- Neighborhood and Built Environment
(Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, n.d.)
People experiencing more underrepresentation and discrimination are disproportionately impacted by SDOH, with a higher likelihood of experiencing poor health conditions and outcomes (Hilovsky et al., 2020). Health equity focuses on removing those barriers, like racism and poverty, to ensure just access to quality of life and a healthy existence.
Research indicates that our health is influenced by more than just our interactions with the healthcare system. Eighty percent of a person’s health and well-being is related to other influences such as our physical environments, our behaviors, and socioeconomic factors. As the image below indicates, a total of 50% of our health is impacted by our physical environments and our socioeconomic circumstances. Both are directly tied to the built environment.
So that means 50% of our health is impacted by where we work and live!
Community development efforts can be a powerful tool for addressing the SDOH responsible for health disparities so closely associated with place, like quality housing. Community development utilizes local resources and assets to improve physical, economic, and social environments while simultaneously celebrating and reinforcing those assets. This emphasis and focus on place is what makes community development work uniquely positioned as a health intervention.
Using a partner-based approach to community development, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership Empower Programs focus on preserving generational wealth and health by building economic and workforce development, promoting housing stability, and increasing community empowerment with residents and organizations in BeltLine neighborhoods. Three Empower Programs include:
The Legacy Resident Retention Program addresses housing instability and economic strain. Eligible individuals file for financial support to cover property tax increases on their homes, easing the financial burden of skyrocketing property taxes. For a homeowner living on a fixed or low income, this program could be the difference in their ability to pay bills or buy necessities that help sustain housing.
The Home Empowerment Workshops are designed to connect residents with knowledge, tools, and resources to ensure residents know how to manage their living conditions and financial affairs. Workshop topics span from learning how to file tax appeals, to budgeting, to home maintenance.
Workforce Partnerships delivered by Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., in collaboration with a number of organizations, connect residents to services and training that guide participants through the workforce pipeline.
Many partners, volunteers, and nonprofits are offering time and talent to create a more equitable city. There is more work to be done, and the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership is committed to moving the vision forward.
It’s a resident by resident, block by block steady process, but as the community development work of the Empower Programs evolves, it continues to reveal the ever-present opportunities and challenges of equitable health, housing, and economic opportunities that affect BeltLine neighborhoods.
Hilovsky, K., Lim, K., and William, T. (2020). Creating the healthiest nation: health and housing equity. American Public Health Association. https://www.apha.org/topics-and issues/health-equity
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (n.d.). Social determinants of health. Healthy People 2030. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/healthypeople/priority-areas/social-determinants-health
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