About Healthy Communities

When we talk about our health, it’s often understood as the sum of the choices we make: our diet, exercise habits, our mindfulness practices. However, research suggests that approximately 60% of what makes us healthy is determined by our built, social, environmental and economic environments. These factors, known as the social determinants of health, are outside our personal control and affect our health in ways that dwarf the impacts of our individual choices.

That’s where the Healthy Communities Approach comes in, helping local governments design these various environments to support maximum health and well-being. These forward-thinking planning and policy decisions both address current challenges and build resiliency for future ones. When local governments prioritize community health and well-being, they invest in their community – and see dividends in other areas for years to come.

Social Determinants of Health

As mentioned above, a large part of our health is determined by factors outside individual control called social determinants of health. These influences are intersectional and rooted in historical and systemic discrimination against particular population groups.

There are many social determinants of health, including:

    • Gender, Gender Identity & Sexism
    • Race & Racism
    • Aboriginal Status & Colonialism
    • Early Life Experiences
    • Education & Literacy
    • Food Insecurity & Nutrition
    • Housing Security
    • Access to Health Services
    • Ableism
    • Income & Job Security
    • Social Safety Net
    • Employment & Working Conditions
    • Social Exclusion & Isolation
Principles of Healthy Communities

Healthy Communities work to reduce the impact of social determinants of health on their residents’ well-being by making it easier for them to lead healthy lives through community design, planning, and health promotion.

This work has some fundamental principles:

A Commitment to Equity
Creating the conditions where discrimination does not determine a person’s health and economic, social, or political opportunities.

Healthy Public Policy
Policies that improve health and make healthier choices easier for community members.

Cultural Safety
Awareness of how societal power imbalances affect the quality of service and supports that some people receive, and ensuring culturally-safe services are provided to those people.

Learn more about the Healthy Communities Approach.


What is Equity?

Equity is the fair distribution of opportunities, power, and resources to meet the needs of all people, regardless of age, ability, gender, income, education level, culture or background. Equitable communities consider how policy and the built environment are shaped by these factors, and strive to reduce barriers for individuals to lead healthy and happy lives.

The benefits of equitable policies are diverse and far-reaching. By including as many perspectives as possible during the planning process, the resulting project or program will be able to respond more appropriately to community needs, avoid costly oversights, serve a wider range of constituents, and build social cohesion and resilience in your community.

Healthy Communities resources

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