Behaviour change: The bigger picture
As a society, we put great emphasis on individual choices and behaviours as factors that affect health. Yet there is a growing understanding that health is determined not only by individual factors such as behaviours, biology and genes; it is also impacted by a range of environmental, economic and social determinants.
Making healthy choices isn’t only about discipline and motivation. The context of a person’s life influences their choices and plays an enormous role in determining how healthy they are. Where we live, whether we are exposed to pollution, our income, our education level, and our ability to influence our circumstances all have a considerable impact on our health. For example, some communities have easy access to fresh, affordable fruit and vegetables; other neighborhoods only have fast food restaurants and convenience stores. Some people have enough money, nice homes, and safe places to walk and bike; others don’t. We can see that the decisions of political leaders, institutional administrators, and company managers — all decision-makers — powerfully impact the health of individuals and the community.
We can influence the determinants of health. For example, we can advocate for policies that reduce the gap between rich and poor or we can lobby for increased availability of healthy foods in our communities. However, these changes will not happen overnight. It is critically important to adopt a lifestyle that will help you achieve your optimal health potential. It is these personal health practices that are the focus of this section of our website.
For more information on the social, political, and economic root causes of health and how to address them, consult the following resources: