Quality of life can be improved when all people interact with environments that promote good health, engage in healthy behaviors across all life stages, and achieve optimum physical and mental health.
Individual and population health is influenced by a variety of personal, social, economic, and environmental factors. In addition to individual genetic predisposition to disease, factors such as individual behaviors (e.g., smoking, binge drinking, physical activity, eating habits), the environment (e.g., working conditions, built environment, pollutants, incidences of crime, access to healthy food), socioeconomic indicators (e.g., income, education, housing), and the policies and practices of health care (e.g., access to health care, public health funding, immunizations), influence health outcomes.
Starting early in life, good health gives children the best chance to enter school ready to learn and to be productive throughout their lives. Research has shown relationships between health and education; better-educated individuals live longer, healthier lives than those with less education. This is in part due to increased education leading to higher income and social status that can provide access to healthier food and physical activity, safer neighborhoods, and better health care.
Adolescents who grow up in neighborhoods characterized by poverty are more likely to be victims of violence; use tobacco, alcohol, and other hazardous substances; become obese; and engage in risky sexual behavior.
Environment and features of environment also shape the behaviors and significantly impact the health of individuals. Education about conscious food choices and access to and availability of healthier foods (e.g., better access to retail venues that sell healthier options) may have a positive impact on an individual’s diet and thereby preventing diet-related diseases (e.g., obesity, heart disease, diabetes). Furthermore, a clean and safe environment (e.g., free of pollutants, low crime rates, accessible neighborhood features) is fundamental for good human health. For instance, poor air quality is associated with increased risk of asthma, lung disease, and heart disease. Social and economic features of a community have been linked to mortality, birth outcomes, chronic conditions, disability, and health behaviors. For example, neighborhoods that are or perceived as safe and have less incidences of crime tend to have more physically active individuals.
Collectively, communities benefit when its citizens are physically active and healthy. With a healthy community, businesses retain a vital and productive workforce, which attracts new economic growth to the area. In addition, it provides opportunities for social engagement within the community.