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How Your Environment Impacts Your Health | The Social Determinants of Health

2019 Kansas foster care changes

When you think of factors that influence your health, you probably think of eating well, staying active and seeing a doctor when sick. But there are actually many more factors that influence our health. Our health is greatly determined by the conditions in which we live. Health starts in homes, schools, workplaces and communities. Our overall health is greatly impacted by access to social and economic opportunities, such as the quality of schools, safety of workplaces, and the availability of clean food and water.

The term “social determinants of health” describes the conditions into which people are born, grow, live and work. This includes aspects such as education, income, living environment, access to health care, available social support networks and much more. The chart below, courtesy of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, outlines various social determinants of health.

Additional Social Determinants of Health

In addition to economic stability, neighborhood and physical environment, education, food, community and social context, and the health care system, there are a few more specific social determinants of health:

  • Gender inequity
  • Racial segregation
  • Early childhood experiences and development
  • Social support and community inclusivity
  • Crime rates and exposure to violent behavior
  • Access to safe drinking water, clean air, and toxin-free environments
  • Recreational and leisure opportunities

Why the Social Determinants of Health Matter

Growing research shows that medical care accounts for only 10-20% of health outcomes, while 80-90% of outcomes are a result of environmental and social factors. By understanding the social determinants of health, policymakers and health care professionals can assess what’s needed most in a community and then take the proper measures to work toward a healthy population. Reducing health inequities, such as lack of access to health care, lack of education, and lack of access to essential social services results in positive health outcomes on both a community and individual level. Research has even shown that an individual’s medical expenses are greatly reduced when housing, transportation and food needs are met.

Prolonged exposure to a negative environment can have a significant impact on your health. For example, living in a community that lacks essential services and supports can lead to stress, which over time increases one’s chances of many health issues. These include heart disease, asthma, various cancers, obesity, diabetes, frequent headaches, depression and anxiety, digestive issues and accelerated aging. While stress management techniques can be very beneficial, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to be effective in a community that is scarce on essential resources.

How We Work to Improve Community Health

KVC Kansas

We are a private, nonprofit organization that serves 30,000 Kansas children and adults each year. We provide family preservation services, foster care case management, family reunification servicesfoster family recruitment and supportadoptionaftercareoutpatient therapy and more.

KVC Hospitals

KVC Hospitals provides behavioral health services for youth ages 6-18 who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health challenges. We help clients through our network of inpatient hospitals and psychiatric residential facilities by providing treatment, care, and skill-building so they can understand their diagnoses, connect to their support network and thrive.

Want to join our team of enriching the lives of children and families? Join our team!

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