14 September 2007

Predicting a community's health and wellbeing, a game of 10 questions?

I was at a conference on planning and health a few months back. At the time the Conference Chair made a really interesting statement. He said "Show me any community anywhere in the world and I will tell you what their health is like. We know enough about public health to be able to do that."

At the time, without a second's hesitation, I nodded vigorously in agreement.

But now its got me thinking, if that's true then what are the key questions we would need to ask and have answered about a community to be able to predict its overall health and wellbeing?

Over the last few months I've been thinking and below are the ten key questions we would need to ask and why:

1. The income distribution within a community. The less the income differential between individuals within a community, above a certain minimum threshold, the better the health of a community overall.

2. The education distribution within a community. The greater the literacy and educational attainment within a community and the more equally/widely distributed that attainment the better the health of a community overall.

3. Availability and distribution of essential utilities - water, heat, light, waste disposal. The wider and better the availability and distribution of essential the better the health of a community overall.

4. Availability, accessibility and distribution of key amenities - food and retail shops, culture and leisure facilities, transportation, heath and social care, etc. The wider and better the availability, accessibility and distribution of key amenities the better the health of a community overall.

5. Availability, distribution and quality of shelter. The wider and better the availability, distribution and quality of shelter the better the health of a community overall.

6. Quality of the built environment - cleanliness, crime and safety, etc. the better the quality of the built environment the better the health of a community overall.

7. Availability, accessibility, distribution and quality of the natural environment and greenspace. The wider and better the availability, accessibility, distribution and quality of greenspace the better the health of a community overall.

8. Availability, accessibility, distribution and quality of employment. The wider and better the availability, accessibility, distribution and quality of employment the better the health of a community overall.

9. Availability, accessibility, distribution and quality of democratic and stable governance. The wider and better the availability, accessibility and distribution the better the health of a community overall.

10. The distribution, quality and richness of social networks and connections. The wider and better the distribution, quality and richness social networks and connections the better the health of a community overall.

Can you do better? What would your ten questions be? Should we replace one or more of the above key questions with others? Or do you have more that I should add on?

Plus, we haven't defined my terms, what do we mean by better? or democracy or social networks and connections? I'll leave that for you to work on!