Role of Community in Fostering Positive Health Outcomes

Learn How Your Community Can Work Together to Become Healthier

An individuals choices are not the only determinant of their health. The community we live in is a huge factor, as well. A safe environment, close community connections, healthy options, and other community features all play a role in health outcomes. We believe that it is possible to work together to create stronger communities that promote health and combat Environment Responsive Cognitive Disorders (ERCDs).

Community Connections

Strong ties to family and friends are instrumental in lessening the symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression and PTSD. The CDC argues that community connectedness (which includes connections between individuals and community organizations) can help to prevent suicide and relieve symptoms of mental illness.   Having strong community connections that keep people active (especially those at risk of isolation) can also help combat vascular health problems. Dementia has a high level of vascular risk, as do strokes. Research shows that strong community ties are important in supporting those who have Alzheimers disease and can increase their quality of life.   Facilities and programs that support community connections include:  
  • Volunteer programs that connect at-risk groups, like children, young adults, new parents and seniors to role models, peers or companions.
  • Recreational therapy programs and recreational clubs that help keep community members active and engaged with one another.
  • Senior Centers which offer programming to help keep seniors connected to other members of the community.

A Safe Environment

  Physical and mental safety both play a role in every individuals health outcomes. Communities with lower rates of crime are less likely to have residents who suffer from crime-related PTSD. Safety may also include protection from environmental toxins, which have been connected to Alzheimers. These connections are not yet fully understood and more research is needed.   Facilities and programs that support a safe environment can include:  
  • Neighbourhood Watch programs and other crime-reduction initiatives.
  • Clean-up programs that remove pollution and litter from the local area and emphasize the importance of a healthy environment.
  • Public meetings that get the community involved in identifying safety and health concerns and create concrete plans to resolve them.

Healthy Options

Those who live in communities which have more healthy options than others will be able to make better decisions to protect their brain health and mental health. Access to high quality grocery stores is a classic example. A nutrient-rich diet can help prevent stroke, dementia, high blood pressure, diabetes, and vascular health problems as well as mental illnesses such as depression.   Other community health options can help motivate community members to exercise. Research indicates that physical exercise significantly reduces the risk of vascular disease, including those diseases that are also ERCDs, such as vascular dementia. Community health options may also help members to resolve their addictions issues with rehabilitation and support.   Facilities and programs that support health can include:  
  • Local 12-step programs or rehabilitation facilities for those who abuse alcohol and narcotics.
  • Food banks that focus on providing brain healthy foods to those who are most at risk in the community.
  • Low-cost or free recreation facilities or clubs that motivate community members to exercise, particularly seniors.
  This is just the start of how a stronger community can help change the health outcomes for any member. Discover strong communities that work with the Healthy Minds Initiative, such as Beach Cities and Sedona, and Northern Arizona. Or, get your community involved in making healthier choices for everyone by getting the Healthy Minds Institute involved in your community.   Author(s): Team Sherzai M.D.