One of the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (RIDOH) three overarching goals is to address the social and environmental determinants of health, with the anticipated outcome of eliminating disparities and promoting health equity. One initiative helping us to reach this goal is the creation of Health Equity Zones (HEZ) in Rhode Island
Since the spring of 2015, RIDOH has funded and collaborated with community organizations to create, implement, and sustain 10 HEZs, or geographic areas, that use innovative approaches to help prevent chronic diseases and improve the social and environmental conditions of neighborhoods throughout the state. HEZs are based on the philosophy that health is not just defined by healthcare. Healthcare, as important as it is, is only responsible for about 10% of our health outcomes. The other 90% of health outcomes are influenced by other elements – social and environmental factors, behaviors, and a little bit of genetics. Health begins where we live, learn, work, and play. It begins with the services available in our neighborhoods, the quality of our housing, the safety of our communities, the nutritional value of the food we can access, the jobs we can get, the equitable experience of educational excellence among our communities, our level of health literacy, and the support we get from our community.
In all five counties, HEZs are putting the spotlight on access to healthcare, healthy and affordable foods,transportation, housing and homelessness, youth and elderly engagement, healthcare, education, jobs and income. They are the foundation of an overall strategy to ensure a better quality of life and healthy living for all Rhode Islanders.
Read the July issue of Health Connections.