CDC Is Working to Remove Environmental and Systemic Barriers to Health
In the United States, chronic diseases are leading causes of death and disability, and some groups are affected more than others. For example, obesity is a chronic disease that increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer. The US prevalence of obesity varies by racial and ethnic group, education, age, location, and physical ability.
CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) leads the nation’s public health efforts to promote good nutrition, regular physical activity, and a healthy weight for everyone. These priorities help improve overall health and well-being and prevent, delay, and manage many chronic diseases.
Yet everyone does not have access to affordable, nutritious food and safe places to be physically active. We work with partners and state, tribal, local, and territorial health agencies and organizations to remove environmental and systemic barriers to health. Health equity is when everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Our health equity work focuses on three areas:
- Leading domestic and international programs and initiatives.
- Applying data from monitoring and research.
- Providing health equity resources.
Social Determinants of Health
The conditions in which we are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age are social determinants of health (SDOH). Examples include access to safe and affordable housing, quality education, and quality health care.
Differences in SDOH contribute to persistent chronic disease disparities among racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups as well as in different geographies and among people with different physical abilities.
Racism is a system of structures, policies, practices, and norms that assigns value and determines opportunity because of the way people look or the color of their skin. This results in conditions that unfairly give advantages to some and disadvantages to others. These advantages and disadvantages are passed down through generations.
Racism, both interpersonal and systemic, limits the ability for some groups to build wealth by determining who owns land, buys houses, gets a quality education, and gets living wage jobs. Racism also affects access to quality health care.
Within the CDC, DNPAO is part of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Our work is aligned with the center’s focus on five social determinants of health: built environment, community-clinical linkages, food and nutrition security, social connectedness, and tobacco-free policies. Also see Social Needs and Social Determinants: The Role of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health.
Senior career staff from more than 35 federal departments and agencies worked together to develop the Federal Plan for Equitable Long-Term Recovery and Resilience. The purpose is to align federal actions, outline strategies to improve vital conditions, support community and individual recovery from the effects of COVID-19, and positively affect health and well-being over the next 10 years and beyond. Vital conditions are characteristics of places and institutions that communities and individuals need to reach their full potential and serve as the guiding framework for the federal plan. Vital conditions include basic needs for health and safety, life-long learning, a thriving natural world, reliable transportation, humane housing, and a community-centered environment with meaningful work and wealth.
Healthy People 2030, a Department of Health and Human Services project, offers measurable, objectives as well as developmental and research objectives to improve health and well-being. The social determinants of health objectives include economic stability, education access and quality, health care access and quality, neighborhoods that promote health and safety, and increased social and community support
The World Health Organization works to address social determinants of health by compiling and disseminating evidence on what works to address these determinants to help build capacity and advocate for more action.