Colorado is getting its annual checkup as health-care providers, policymakers and elected officials held the Colorado Health Foundation’s 2016 symposium recently in Keystone, CO.
Karen McNeil-Miller, the foundation’s new chief executive, presented a new report, entitled “Where Health Happens.” Where Coloradans live, learn, work and play has a big impact on wellness long before they see a doctor, she said, and it’s time to expand how people think about health.
“Health is all around you, or barriers to health are all around you,” she said. “So, to look at everything around us with a health lens – of ‘How is this in the way?’ Or, ‘How is this helping me make me and my family the healthiest it can be?’ ”
The report focuses on areas that can contribute to illness or health: education and child care, financial security and safety, food access, housing and transportation.
McNeil-Miller said Colorado is making progress – the report cites a greenhouse that provides fresh produce to a polluted industrial neighborhood as one example – but added that the state will have to do better to reach its goal of being the healthiest in the nation.
Most people understand that exercise and eating healthy foods is good for them, but McNeil-Miller said it’s hard to make good choices when the closest produce is a 45-minute bus ride away, and walking isn’t easy in a busy neighborhood without sidewalks. She said barriers to good health such as the lack of affordable housing, child care and living-wage jobs can’t be overcome by getting a prescription filled at the local pharmacy.
“So, things far outside what we would normally consider in the health arena,” she said, “but all have a direct link to the health outcomes of an individual, a family or a community.”
On a practical level, everyone is in the health-care business, she said, and the goal is to get business owners, city planners and others to add potential health consequences to their decision-making process. The report is available online at coloradohealth.org.
Public News Service