Vital Community Conditions

The communities where people live, work, and play greatly influence health. Vital community conditions are properties of places and institutions that all people need all the time to be healthy and well. In order to thrive, people need access to a consistent, complete set of vital conditions, such as clean air, fair pay, humane housing, early education, and other necessities. These vital community conditions form an interdependent system that shapes the choices, opportunities, and challenges people encounter throughout their lives.

Seven Vital Conditions for Community Health and Well-Being

Public Health plays an essential role in improving vital community conditions. Public Health helps prevent and mitigate health hazards, increases access to basic needs and services, implements policies, plans, and programs to improve health, and strengthens and supports partnerships across sectors for health.

The Seven Vital Conditions for Community Health and Well-Being is a framework for understanding well-being and the conditions that give rise to it. The framework is organized into seven “vital conditions” or domains that bring together major determinants of health and expose how parts of a multi-faceted whole work as a system to produce population well-being.

Urgent Services

While vital conditions are necessary to achieve health and well-being, there are moments when people experience crisis. Urgent services, like food or unemployment assistance, are necessary to relieve short-term suffering, but these bandaid efforts to aid in crisis are inadequate to address persistent, entrenched inequity and improve well-being at scale. We can transform our systems for well-being by shifting focus from “urgent response” to intentionally investing in vital community conditions that prevent illness and injury, promote prevention, and foster well-being.

Thriving Natural World

A thriving natural world provides clean air, water, land, and functional ecosystems, supporting a healthy environment free from hazards and resilient to change. However, sectors like food, energy, transportation, and healthcare are impacted by the environment, and environmental degradation disproportionately affects marginalized communities. Climate change further poses risks, and while progress has been made, challenges remain in improving air quality, reducing pollution, and managing hazardous substances.

Basic Needs for Health & Safety

Access to fresh air, water, nutritious food, stable housing, and healthy relationships are crucial for physical and mental well-being. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly compromised meeting these basic needs, with widespread layoffs, difficulty in paying rent and buying groceries, increased domestic violence, mental health issues, and limited access to healthcare. The United States requires new ideas and improved public policies to recover and thrive in the future, ensuring that basic needs for health and safety are met for all.
  • Champion substance use prevention initiatives See: Implementation
  • Improve equitable access to basic needs, medical care, and other services See: Equity

Humane Housing

Humane housing entails secure and safe living spaces within diverse and vibrant communities, enabling individuals to lead fulfilling and productive lives. Housing affordability is a critical factor in financial well-being, and stability, quality, safety, and affordability of housing significantly impact health outcomes. Access to humane housing is closely intertwined with various aspects of life, particularly for children, and it plays a crucial role in determining individuals’ ability to thrive and flourish.
  • Create and implement affordable housing policies and plans See: Implementation
  • Use legal and regulatory strategies to ensure safe and healthy housing conditions See: Authority

    Meaningful Work and Wealth

    Personal, family, and community wealth are crucial for healthy and secure lives, encompassing fulfilling jobs, financial security, and the ability to accumulate wealth across generations. The ongoing coronavirus crisis has significantly impacted the economy, work, and wealth, particularly affecting families and communities, especially those in marginalized groups. However, there is hope that reevaluating work and income equality, along with addressing systemic racism, can lead to new approaches and progress in achieving economic equity and financial stability.

      Lifelong Learning

      Lifelong learning ensures equal access to quality education, enabling individuals to reach their full potential and pursue meaningful careers. Education is a catalyst for social mobility, positively impacting health, well-being, and opportunities. However, disparities in educational access and attainment persist, perpetuating inequality across generations.
      • Partner with schools and school districts to provide school-based health services See: Partnership
      • Assess and monitor youth health and well-being status See: Assessment

      Reliable Transportation

      Active transportation, such as walking, biking, and using public transit, promotes physical activity, reduces pollution, and improves community health. Investing in infrastructure and prioritizing equity can increase access to active transportation, benefiting overall well-being and creating economic opportunities.

      Belonging and Civic Muscle

      Belonging and civic muscle are vital conditions for community health and well-being. Social support, connections, and a sense of efficacy contribute to practical and emotional needs, mental well-being, and healthy behaviors. Social cohesion at the community level fosters trust, cooperation, and collective attachment, enabling collaborative efforts and the co-creation of a shared future, ultimately strengthening community vibrancy and driving positive change.
      • Strengthen, support, and mobilize community-based partners See: Partnership
      • Improve equitable access to community arts and culture programming See: Equity

      Reflection Questions

      • How would you describe the relationship between vital community conditions and urgent services in advancing health, well-being, and equity?
      • What examples of building belonging and civic muscle have you seen in your community?
      • Where do you see opportunities for Public Health to advance strategies that address two or more vital conditions at the same time (i.e., multisolving)?
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