by Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, MS
We often spend time discussing healthy behaviors and ways to help you heal in our blog. I want to take a different approach today and focus on the importance of healthy communities.
Although the exact percentage varies a little, studies show that something called “social determinants” account for nearly 80 percent of one’s health risk. Social determinants are group risk factors – such as income distribution, education, influence, and power – rather than individual factors – such as exercise or eating habits – that influence the risk of disease.
Knowing this, it makes me proud to live in the city of Minneapolis where leaders, governmental organizations and nonprofits work together to reduce social barriers to living a healthy life.
Just recently, I had the opportunity to sit among representatives of more than 40 non-profits who partner with the city to improve residents’ health. We celebrated Minneapolis’ accomplishment of being one of six communities across the country to win the Roadmaps to Health prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The award recognized that the Minneapolis health department has worked with partners, like my organization, Allina Health, to put in place programs and policies to address problems that disproportionately affect people with limited incomes and educations. Here are a few examples:
- Programs that connect clinics and communities to prevent chronic disease. I had the opportunity to work on this with many others. More than 50 years of research has shown the importance of strong social connections to healthy lives. We know feeling a sense of connection to your community is key. Empowering residents to live healthier lives, not only at their clinics but also in their neighborhoods, left me feeling so rewarded.
- The Northside Achievement Zone, which gives North Minneapolis children and families the tools they need to move from “cradle to college to career.” As I mentioned earlier, one of the most important social determinants of health is education. All the cholesterol medication in the world is not a substitute for the impact education has on one’s health.
- Biking programs which have led to Minneapolis being recognized as the most bikeable city in the country. This is truly fantastic but, as the mayor pointed out, it’s much more difficult to bike in North Minneapolis than it is around Lake of the Isles, just a few miles away. Part of this is due to the environment (safe streets) and part of it is due to making bikes affordable and available to those on a fixed budget. Nice Ride bike share, Midtown Bike Walk Center, and Venture North Bike Walk Coffee Shop have partnered together to help improve biking access in Minneapolis.
I am truly proud to live in Minneapolis and am so thankful for the leadership at the Minneapolis health department, which is helping transform communities.
Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, MS