Northern Wilds Magazine

How do we Define Health?

Most of us probably define health in terms of doctor’s offices, blood pressure readings or not having a cold. While these things are not inaccurate, they certainly aren’t the whole picture of health.

The factors that contribute to our health are much broader and shaped by the conditions and opportunities available in the places where we live. Coined “social determinants of health,” these factors are the conditions that make health a possibility or can create barriers to health. Examples include access to jobs, education, and health care, affordable housing, transportation options, public safety and many others. Physical determinants are also important, such as whether there is a safe place for children to walk to school.

Here in Cook County, we’re lucky in many ways. Clean water and air are abundant. A farmers market that promotes locally grown fruits and vegetables started last summer and will continue this year. Education is available to all kids through schools, a library and community events. But there are also challenges that our community faces that impact health: the lack of affordable housing, the need of year-round employment, and others. These are all social determinants that make our community a place where health can flourish or be hindered. The determinants are vital to understanding that while individual choices are important, a healthy choice can only be made if it is available.

When we recognize that health is more than what happens in the doctor’s office, we can start to see where there are opportunities to improve our community’s health. To help our community do this, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic has started a campaign called #thisishealth. Around town, you’ll start to see posters that have this hashtag alongside a photo. If your initial thought is “I guess I never thought of that as health,” then you’re on the right track. This campaign is meant to help us think differently about health and see opportunities in our community for positive changes to improve health.

If this idea is intriguing to you, there’s an event coming up that will highlight the ways our community is already promoting health, while taking a deeper look at areas that need improving. What the Health: How Do We Plan for Community Vitality? is an evening of dinner, improv theater and a local planning conversation that won’t give you indigestion. Happening at the ACA in Grand Marais on March 23, it promises to be an evening of entertainment that cracks open the concept of health, with the goal of bringing more of it to the people of Cook County.

For more information, contact Kristin or Maren at 218-387-2330.

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