I love trees--especially the redwood trees near my childhood home in northern California. At more than 200 feet tall, they are the tallest trees on Earth. You would think the roots of the redwood tree would be extremely deep to help support its incredible height, but they're not. The roots are very shallow.
Even with these shallow roots, redwood trees can withstand storms and other natural stresses, allowing them to live for hundreds of years. That’s because their roots interconnect with each other, making them strong. But it also makes them susceptible to disease; if one tree becomes infected, others become sick as well.
Redwood trees are part of complex communities of living things that interact with their environment. These ecosystems are dependent on redwoods to thrive, just as the health of redwoods is dependent on the overall health of the ecosystems they inhabit.
It’s a lot like community health. I may be well today, but I can still be exposed to illnesses that are circulating in my community. That’s most obvious today with the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are other factors that contribute to individual and community health, including the resources available to sustain and improve whole health.
What is Community Health?
Community health is the collective level of overall health for a group of people who live, work, or play there. An individual’s health is influenced by their larger community, and the health of those communities is in turn influenced by each individual.
Community health is influenced by many factors, including the physical environment, social and cultural beliefs, community organizations, and individual behaviors that include exercise, immunizations, and other preventive health measures. For example, efforts to bring community gardens and other sources of nutritious produce to food deserts can help improve overall health and prevent obesity and its associated health problems. The fluoride in community water lowers the prevalence of tooth decay; lower levels of tooth decay then lower the average risk of heart disease.