At the same time that the foundation was exploring the possibilities of launching a community change initiative, vital policy discussions were taking place around the country about the best ways to invest in population health to achieve the best outcomes. Based on significant research, it was becoming common knowledge among public health officials that people’s health outcomes are more dependent on the ZIP codes where they live than their DNA codes and medical predispositions. The medical component, while important, is not the sole-or even principle-driver of our health or the health of our communities.
Considerable evidence links quality education, housing, child care, transportation, job opportunity and safe neighborhoods to our health outcomes, and even how long we live. These “social determinants of health” are the conditions in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age as well as the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.
The graphic below illustrates areas of our lives impacting our health and the health of our community.
As the foundation began relying on the input and participation of diverse stakeholders in communities, discussions affirmed what public health officials were saying. Most of the discussions centered around housing, gun violence, and the ability to earn a living, rather than medical conditions and clinical care. The communities were organically addressing the social determinants of health. We began evolving our grantmaking from supporting acute care and clinical programs to addressing the social, economic and environmental factors that impact health.
In response to this growing knowledge and the new direction of the foundation, we changed our name from Palm Healthcare Foundation to Palm Health Foundation to represent our growing role as a funder of lifelong wellbeing with a vision that all Palm Beach County residents have opportunities to thrive and reach their full health potential.