Communities Taking Charge of Their Health

Serving as an introduction to a special issue of Health Promotion Practice featuring reports on community interventions, this article by James S. Marks, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Group, serves as a public health call-to-action.

Spending roughly twice what other industrialized countries spend for medical care, yet remaining far less healthy, Marks argues that more expensive treatment is not needed. Instead, less disease is needed—and public health can address that. Marks notes the reports in the issue and other communities working to more healthfully organize, design and build; highlighting three lessons:

  1. Local level initiatives contain the real innovations—only later are they more widely applied.
  2. There must be strong commitment, and community health action must work across sectors.
  3. Public health practice must span all organizations that address the community’s needs.

As awareness of social determinants critical to the overall health of a community grows, communities that harness these determinants will more likely have healthier people and a more connected community. Additionally, these communities may also experience an influx of business looking to expand or start new facilities due to their healthiness. Individuals must come together to create healthier and more satisfying places to live.