A Healthy Community is a Prepared CommunityPosted on by
What does a prepared community look like?
As communities look at how to prepare for the next emergency, they usually focus on stockpiling emergency supplies, having clear alert networks and ways to communicate with the public, and designating evacuation routes and shelter locations. While all of these are key aspects of emergency planning, one area of preparedness that is often overlooked is community health. Community Health is a term used to describe the state of health and how easy or difficult it is to be healthy where people live, learn, work and play. The health of a community, including ease of access to medical care and community resources available for exercise and encouraging healthy habits, is an important part of emergency planning that can have a positive impact on a community before, during, and after a public health emergency.
What is a Healthy Community?
A healthy community is one in which local groups from all parts of the community work together to prevent disease and make healthy living options accessible. Working at the community level to promote healthy living brings the greatest health benefits to the greatest number of people. It also helps to reduce health gaps caused by differences in income, education, race and ethnicity, location and other factors that can affect health. Healthy communities commonly have high vaccination rates to protect citizens from diseases and easy access to medical care and healthy food; are designed for healthy living at home, work, and school; and provide good mental health resources. Often, this also means it is safe and easy to walk, bike, and play in parks and community spaces.
How is a Healthy Community Better Prepared?
Communities that have good health resources in place and healthy community members can often recover after a disaster more quickly and with less negative health issues. Individuals who are in good physical shape, have proper vaccinations, have access to clinical services and medications, and know where to get critical health and emergency alert information, can better recover from a disaster and are more likely to be able to contribute to a community’s recovery efforts. After a natural disaster people may be displaced or may be gathered or taking shelter in crowded group settings. When there is a large number of people gathering or living in these crowded areas, it is imperative that people are up-to-date on their vaccinations in order to reduce the spread of disease.
Unhealthy communities often have a large number of individuals that are more vulnerable before, during, and after a disaster. Factors that lead to poor health in communities such as high rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, limited access to general medical care, and low levels of health education, can cause substantial difficulties for a community recovering from an emergency event. Gaps in medical care can increase significantly after a disaster due to physical damage to health care facilities or from a large increase in the number of people who need medical attention. People who already have poor health are usually more susceptible to disease during a public health emergency and cannot get the normal day-to-day medical care they need.
Make Your Community Healthy and Prepared
You can help improve the health of your community by taking a look at your health and the health of your family. Take actions to ensure that you are as healthy as possible. Before an emergency, if you eat well, get regular checkups and vaccinations, and are physically active, your body will be better able to handle the stress and physical demands of recovering from a disaster. Washing your hands regularly can also help reduce your chances of getting sick during and after an emergency.
Help promote health in your community by becoming more engaged in your community. Encourage local community groups and government organizations to consider community health in their emergency preparedness plans. Take action to improve your community’s health now to ensure you are better prepared to remain healthy when an emergency occurs.