Effect of Environments on Health

Individual behaviors, such as physical activity participation and eating habits, are usually considered the main determinants of one’s physical health. However, additional contributors to health are often overlooked. One such contributor is the environment in which one resides, works, plays, or attends school. Since the external environment reflects a community’s opportunities for physical acitivity, access to healthy foods, injury prevention, and safety, it is important to consider this dimension during the overall assessment of a community’s health.

For example, if an individual lives in an urban environment that provides safe, walkable access to and from destinations, then one is more likely to engage in physical activity on a regular basis. On the contrary, if one lives in a suburban environment that requires vehicular transportation to arrive at the desired destination, then the individual has fewer opportunities within the built environment to incorporate physical activity into one’s daily routine. 

In addition, a school environment that has good nutritional guidelines for its cafeteria and vending machines is more likely to see its students engaging in healthy eating. However, schools that do not enforce strong nutritional policies are likely to serve their students with foods and beverages that do not consistently meet the recommended daily dietary guidelines for adolescents.

Similarly, one’s work environment can impact his/her health. Employee health can be increased through the establishment of corporate wellness programs and benefits such as fitness centers and nutritional counseling. In addition to physical health, it is also important to be aware of the impacts the culture of the workplace has on the individual. Shifting toward healthier employees can reduce healthcare costs and absenteeism and increase productivity in the workplace.   

Click on the following links to learn more about how to promote healthy communities by enhancing school, work, and built environments in Delaware: