Health matters

Mary Jo Deck, Smart Start’s Shape N.C. community engagement specialist, hosts a cooking class for early educators. Courtesy of Smart Start of Buncombe County

What would it take for us to be the healthiest, safest community in the nation? Research tells us that health and safety are shaped by the communities we live in and by our individual behaviors. In other words, health does not start at the doctor’s office. It is created all around us — where we live, learn, work and play.

Too many of us don’t have the same opportunities to be as healthy as others. We may live in unsafe neighborhoods. Many of us work multiple jobs and still cannot afford safe care for our children, and we struggle to put healthy food on our tables.

In our community, we are fortunate to have parks and recreational facilities open to the public, local gardens and farmers markets, neighborhoods with community centers and playing fields. 

Together, we can do more to improve our health by looking for opportunities to enhance where we live, go to school, work and play. We can do more to create safe communities and families that foster good health. We can do more to take the burden off the clinical care system and keep health care dollars where they are needed — in our local economy.

• National research has shown that every $1 spent on prevention saves $5.50 in health spending.

• There is scientific evidence that many common and costly diseases are linked to experiences that occurred in early childhood, during pregnancy or even before our mother was pregnant.


• Economists estimate that every dollar invested in early education produces a 10 percent return on investment through increased personal achievement and social productivity.

What we do matters. We can create a community where our children can learn and live in a safe and nurturing environment that will help them grow up to live a healthy and productive life.

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