Population Health

Increasingly, public health officials and health care providers are seeking to improve population health.

Population Health

Population health is defined as the “health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.“ Importantly, the growing focus on population health directs our attention to the social determinants of health and the distribution of health outcomes, or health equity.

(Mental) Health Impact Assessments

Public policies are important social determinants of health.

(Mental) Health Impact Assessments

They have profound impacts — both negative and positive — on the collective health and well-being of communities. This is especially true for communities with limited economic, social and political resources. (Mental) Health Impact Assessments are an important tool for helping to ensure that public policies lead to positive outcomes in the health and well-being of all communities.

Sorter School Project

Food policy is a critical health determinant and is linked to a range of health outcomes, including behavioral health outcomes.

Sorter School Project

To investigate this link, children in a school located in Benton Harbor, Michigan were fed breakfasts and lunches that had less sugar, dyes, preservatives and unhealthy fats, and more food with whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. The results of the pilot provides a basis for continued examination of the link between food policy, what we eat and human behavior.
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My Journey as a Health Equity Advocate: Reframing the Question

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I grew up on the south side of Chicago in the 1960s. While the south side of the city was not affluent, it was bustling with economic activity. We had parks to play in, structurally sound houses and schools,  grocery stores, clean streets, a range of retail activity, and lots of recreational facilities. There was a general sense of community well-being.

I left Chicago in the 1970s to attend college and begin my professional career, including live and work in Europe for more than a decade during my time away from the city. I returned to the States in the late 1990s, re-locating my family back to the Chicago area. My first encounter with Chicago of the 1990s was very positive – the lakefront and surrounding areas were stunning – new stores, restaurants, housing, amenities that attract tourists from all over the country and the world. Downtown was completely revitalized. Chicago is today a shining example of successful downtown revitalization.

One sunny summer morning, I thought I would drive through some south side communities I knew as a child to see how they had fared – fully expecting a similar resurgence – though not at the same magnitude. Instead, I found that the communities had deteriorated. The vitality I remembered was gone. Empty lots, boarded houses and other structures, too many liquor stores, and not enough food stores. Other retail establishments had bars on their windows, the streets were littered with trash, and the unemployed were hanging out on street corners. Children played on treeless, concrete “playgrounds.” 

While driving and contemplating this new reality, I noted something disturbing that would later define the trajectory of my career. I came to a stoplight. At that moment, I was distracted by movement that was visible on the periphery of my vision. I turned my head in time to watch a woman pull her pants down to her ankles, squat and urinate on the sidewalk – in broad daylight. My knee jerk response was, “What is wrong with her?”

A year or so later, I began reading about the social determinants of health, and realized that mental health could be determined by a wide range of social factors. I also began to realize that the question I had asked myself that sunny summer morning was not the right question. The right question was, “What social conditions has she been exposed to? What kinds of environments has she had to navigate that have put her mental health at such serious risk?” A host of other subsidiary questions should have come to mind on that day. For instance,  “Does she have a family, shelter, food, money or support of any kind?” “Has she been emotionally, sexually, or otherwise physically abused?” The evolution in my thinking about mental health would shape my work going forward.

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Dr. Lynn Todman

Lynn Todman is an author, speaker, researcher, and thought leader committed to influencing what matters to community health. Lynn’s career has focused on identifying and addressing the social and economic factors that undermine the welfare of urban communities.

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Research shows racism harms physical health

September 16th, 2017|0 Comments

  ....a host of research in recent years has shown that racism, like a disease, can harm the physical health of both its victims and its perpetrators. Racism Harms Children’s Health, Survey Finds Racism [...]

Todman seeks connections between health, environment

July 25th, 2017|0 Comments

As an urban planner and researcher, Lynn Todman has spent her career digging into why people get sick, and the type of environment they need to get well. As Lakeland Health’s [...]

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