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OPINION

Health and Wellness: What impacts our health?

Ann Cochran - Dallas County Health Department

Our health and well being is largely impacted by our life outside clinics and hospitals. Only 20% of what strongly influences our health is “healthcare” (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.)

The largest factors of our health, at 40%, are social and economic. Examples are employment, housing, transportation, food, child care, education, feeling safe in our community and experiencing discrimination in local businesses. Emotional support from family and friends has an enormous influence on our physical health. These are known as the social determinants of health.

Thirty percent of our health status is in our own control. Tobacco, alcohol and drug use, foods high in fat and/or sugar and risky sexual activity decrease health. Exercising and monitoring health markers (weight, blood pressure, glucose level) have a positive impact on health. Even if it’s tough to change our own behavior, it is within our control.

Where we live fills out the remaining 10% of what impacts our health. Are there things in our home that make family members sick such as pest infestations, mold or lead paint? Are nutritious foods sold in stores we can get to easily? We can change some factors directly and influence changes in the others.