If you’re a public student, or you read, hear, talk or even just care about public health you’ve most likely come across the term “multisectoral”. It’s thrown around a lot when discussing things like community and population health or health disparities. But what does multisectoral mean? And why is it so important to the public health field?
Pardon me if I’m getting a little deep here, but the way I see it health is probably the most important thing in life. Health is fundamental to every sector of our society. I mean, think about it, you really can’t do anything without good health. And, while a good economy, government and all that good stuff is important in the world it would be nothing without healthy people. This is why multisectoral collaboration is so important. It really needs to be a community effort to achieve a healthy society of people who are able to then fill all the roles of said community. So what I’m getting at here is that health needs to be considered and integrated in the decision making process across all sectors of society, a collaborative approach called Health in All Policies.
Health care workers work to provide many services, including health education, disease surveillance, treatments, and other interventions. But as we well know health is affected by far more than just germs, medicine and access to health care and our doctors, nurses and social workers are not enough. Health is affected by everything around us. Determinants such as income inequality, education, discrimination, environment, employment, housing, food resources, socioeconomic status and more. All these factors affect our ability to make healthy choices access health resources. This is particularly important in disadvantaged communities. In order to effectively influence population health, it is crucial to target the root causes within a broader societal perspective. Government departments, state and local, like urban planning, education, and finance all make decisions that impact our health and how we live.
The way a community is built interms of its land patterns, transportation, and design bears heavily on the health of the people living there. Neighborhoods with mixed-used areas, good public transportation, and big sidewalks make it a lot easier and safer for people to walk or ride bikes rather than use cars. In many urban areas there is limited access to nutritious food and “food deserts” run rampant. Better food sources like affordable local farmers markets would allow people to maintain healthy diets. A good safe home is also a foundation for health. Thus, investing in housing that is designed, built and maintained in ways that support health is vital. In terms of business, a healthy workforce is an efficient workforce. Well-designed health plans, employee wellness programs and other health tools can encourage employees to take more initiative in their health. Healthy employees reduces the need for costly healthcare services and is generally a return on investment. School play a crucial role in addressing the physical, mental, social, and environmental factors related to health and well-being that affect learning. Districts should have policies that support and promote the healthy behavior of their students and staff. A better education also opens doors to many more opportunities in the future.
Incorporating health considerations into policies across all sectors will be challenging. Even when decisions are made execution must be sustainable in order to have a lasting impact. But I think it’s possible — it has to be. We all have a vision for healthcare, but it doesn’t always have to be so far downstream where we are diagnosing and treating people for things that could have been avoided. Because real, true health shouldn’t be about curing the disease, but about preventing it in the first place. And healthcare shouldn’t be about the system or the cost, but about our actual health.