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We know from research and experience that people have a better opportunity for health when they have particular health assets available. When these assets are unavailable or inadequate, health equity is reduced, and health disparities result. One of the most empowering things we can do to support community health improvement is to help vulnerable populations strengthen their health assets. Community Health Solutions developed the Health Opportunity Model to inform and guide this vital work at the community level.

The Health Opportunity Model

The Health Opportunity Model is an evidence-based framework for improving health opportunity and achieving health equity at the community level. As illustrated in the graphic, the model defines the types of services and supports that are necessary to enable health opportunity that leads to health equity.

Health Equity. There is no single, standard definition of health equity. One widely cited definition is:

Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care. For the purposes of measurement, health equity means reducing and ultimately eliminating disparities in health and its determinants that adversely affect excluded or marginalized groups. (Paula Braveman, Health Affairs, 2017),

Health Opportunity. Health opportunity can be defined as the ability of individuals and populations to pursue their goals for health and well being. Health opportunity is necessary for health equity, and it is enabled by five types of health assets as outlined below.

Natural Supports. Natural supports can be defined as personal and community relationships that support health and well being. Natural supports are often overlooked as a key health asset.

Health Services. Health care services include the array of services that may be necessary for preventing and treating disease and disability. These include access to medical care, behavioral health care, dental care, eye care, pharmacy care, hospital care, long-term care, case management, and other clinical health care services.

Community & Social Services. Community & social services include the array of enabling services that may be necessary for sustaining health and accessing health care services. Examples include education, transportation, housing, nutrition, recreation, financial assistance, job supports, and legal supports in addition to state and local social services.

Supportive Environment. A supportive environment is one that supports health and well being for individuals and populations. Environmental settings include the home, the neighborhood, the workplace, and the school. Examples of environmental assets include safe housing, safe neighborhoods, safe streets, safe schools, safe workplaces, safe air and water, access to healthy food, safe spaces for physical activity, and freedom from violence.  

Supportive Policy. Supportive policy is essential for enabling health opportunities that are essential for achieving health equity. Supportive policy is important not only in the realms of public health and health care, but also in public safety, education, transportation, housing, social services, employment, community financial services, environmental quality, community development, and economic development.

Community Applications

The Health Opportunity Model can be applied to improve health equity for any community population. Ideally this work is conducted collaboratively to optimize collective impact. The model can be applied using the following process.

  1. Engage key stakeholders.
  2. Define the focus population.
  3. Identify health needs, assets, and gaps in health opportunity that affect health equity.
  4. Collaborate to increase health opportunity by addressing cultural and structural causes, and connecting population members to appropriate services and supports.
  5. Strengthen community services, environments, and policies where needed.
  6. Evaluate and improve the initiative in response to data and feedback from stakeholders.
  7. Continue working to create and sustain health opportunity through innovative service models, funding models, and policies.

Community Health Solutions provides research, consulting, and learning supports for applying the Health Opportunity Model. Please contact us to learn more.