Good health depends on more than just health care. Our health is affected by where we live, the work we do, the education we receive, and our income. I work with residents to improve their health and reduce their chances of developing heart disease and diabetes. There
are three recommendations that I often make to clients: 1. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats; 2. Increase physical activity; and 3. Take your prescribed medications. For some clients, these are strategies they can incorporate into their lives. But not everyone can.
One client, let’s call her Jane, is a single mother working two part time jobs. She wants to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables, but can’t afford them from her local grocer. Canned foods, which are high in sodium and/or sugar, are the basis of most of the meals she cooks. Jane doesn’t have much time to cook, so sometimes prepackaged foods are the most efficient way to feed her kids – like frozen pizza and chicken fingers. Speaking of time, exercise is low on her priority list because she’d rather spend time with her kids. During the summer she comes up with ways to get the entire family exercising by playing outside, but winter is a tough challenge. Jane doesn’t have insurance through her workplaces, and she sometimes has to choose between paying for her prescriptions or paying for the heat to stay on. So my suggestions might be well meaning, but how helpful are they really? Is health care the solution to the challenges Jane faces, or do we need to do something more?
The Tri County Health Network has received funding from the Colorado Trust to support local discussions about what we can do as friends and neighbors to support each other’s health and well-being. These discussions will focus on “health equity.” Health equity is a vision of communities where every person has the chance to achieve his or her full health potential. When health equity is achieved, no one is prevented from fulfilling their potential because of their income, job, race, or where they live. Discussions about health equity will look at some of the challenges our friends and neighbors face in affording healthy food, having time to cook and exercise, have health insurance coverage that pays for preventative care and prescriptions, and much more. Health equity is about more than health care, it’s about friends and neighbors caring about their community’s health overall. As a community, we work, learn, play, and live together. Let’s make sure that everyone has the chance to enjoy life to its fullest (and longest) in our beautiful town.
This post was written by Nicole Gans, Ouray and Telluride Community Health Worker