Everyone benefits from living in a safe and welcoming environment. Our health is shaped by the places we spend our time, by our personal relationships and the circumstances in which we live.
How can we create environments and policies that increase opportunities to be healthy?
Health and well-being improve with access to affordable healthy options and opportunities where people live, work, learn, play and age. Factors that impact individual and community health are called the social determinants of health. Having a secure job, affordable housing, educational opportunities, and a neighborhood where one has a sense of belonging all have powerful positive impacts on health across the lifespan.
There are different ways to improve people’s health and wellness at the individual, community and policy levels. Although these levels can be complex and interconnected, we can find opportunities to take collaborative action. One option is to encourage and support behavior changes. Another route is to create environments that support making healthy choices the easy choice. Public policies can also make a difference in the improvement of health outcomes. There is a fundamental relationship between a person’s behavior, their environment and their health.
Healthy Communities Approach
The Healthy Communities Approach (HCA) originated in Canada in the late 1980s and is currently used across Canada and in communities worldwide. The approach encourages collective action and calls for a variety of community members, groups and leaders to work towards a common purpose. It takes an asset-based approach to community development; focusing on strengths, skills, knowledge and assets of all those involved. The intent is to work together better by strengthening relationships, mobilizing resources, building capacity and much more!
Fundamental to the success of the HCA are five foundation building blocks.
To support communities across Alberta we adapted this approach and created the Alberta Healthy Communities Approach, a fluid 5 step process that supports identifying strengths, prioritizing action and evaluating impact. The AHCA guides coordinated action across all settings (workplace, schools, recreation, and health services) to create environments that support health. Throughout the process, communities have the control and capacity to create the shared vision and outcomes they are most passionate about (Russell, 2018)