How Does Where We Live, Work, Learn and Play Affect Our Health?

Our health is largely influenced by the choices we make for ourselves and our families. But the conditions in the communities where Americans live, learn, work and play also play an important role in people's ability to make those healthy choices.

Research shows that communities with smoke-free air laws, access to healthy foods, quality affordable housing, good schools and safe places to play are healthier than those that don't. In fact, the economic, social and physical environments that surround us can have a much greater impact on our health than how often we go to the doctor's office.

Health disparities caused by inequalities in education, employment, socioeconomic status, housing, community resources and transportation pose significant obstacles to improving the nation’s overall health.

Targeted investments in our communitiescan help overcome these obstacles so that more Americans can lead healthy and productive lives.

This Health Policy Snapshot, published online in September 2011, examines the social obstacles to good health and the benefits to focusing on multiple factors affecting health.

Read more from RWJF's Health Policy Snapshot series.