When we think of “health” we often think of conditions like diabetes or cancer, visits to the doctor’s office, or wait times for medical services.
But long before illness, health starts in our communities – where we live, work, learn, and play.
Defining health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, it is easy to see that it’s influenced by access to clean water and healthy food, affordable recreational activities, education opportunities and meaningful work.
As individuals, we can improve our wellbeing by eating healthy, exercising and managing our stress. To support our efforts, communities that keep health in mind when creating policy or designing spaces can go a long way towards making the healthy choice, the easy choice.
But more so than healthy habits, our health is largely determined by our circumstances. Income, social status and education play a powerful role. Lower levels of any of these factors are linked to more stress and lower self-confidence. The greater the gap between the richest and the poorest, the greater the differences in health.
Social support from our family and friends is important too. Caring relationships and having someone to turn to during times of stress are health protective. Beyond our immediate social circles, having a strong sense of community support and connectedness enhances our wellbeing.
According to the World Health Organization, “health is created and lived by people within the settings of their everyday life.”
People cannot achieve their fullest potential unless they are able to take control of the factors that determine their well-being.
Individuals, local governments, community organizations and businesses all play a role in creating those conditions.
Recognizing the importance of this, the BC Ministry of Health supports BC Healthy Communities (www.bchealthycommunities.ca) a provincial not-for-profit organization whose mandate is to help build healthy and vibrant communities. In our community, the recently formed Summerland Healthy Communities Initiative plans to build on these ideas to make Summerland a leading example of a healthy community. We are a cross sectorial group with representation from Interior Health, the Municipality, SD #67, Parks and Recreation, spiritual care and individual citizens. We are looking to build on many of the assets Summerland already has and want to engage and enable all Summerlanders to achieve their best physical, mental and social well-being.
Interested in learning more? Want to share your thoughts? Please join us at the next Philosophers Café Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. at the IOOF Hall. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Sandra Turnbull, RD, CEC is a registered dietitian, certified executive coach with the Interior Health Authority.