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What Is Community Health and Why Is It Important?

Learn about community health and why it’s so valuable to populations around the world.

Healthcare professionals play an integral role in ensuring that people receive the care they need to maintain healthy lives. But individual wellness doesn’t exist in a vacuum—in fact, many aspects of individual health are related to the communities to which we belong.

A community, simply put, is a group of people. These people may be considered a community because of where they live geographically, but they can also be a member of a community based on criteria such as where they work or go to school. Community health nursing uses evidence-based research and applies it to various communities, taking into consideration socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.


The Role of a Community Health Nurse

Community health nurses work outside of a hospital setting and interact directly with the community. One of their primary goals is to raise awareness about certain public health issues and help stop the spread of preventable diseases and illnesses. Depending on the community being served, this could include improving health with a focus on the opioid crisis, vaccines, teenage pregnancy, smoking, obesity, HIV/AIDS, and more.

The Connection Between COVID-19 and Community Health

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that certain communities and populations can be—and often are—disproportionately affected by public health crises. For instance, American Indian and Alaska Native non-Hispanic populations faced a COVID-19 hospitalization rate that was 3.3 times higher than that of white non-Hispanic populations. The risk of death in Latino and Hispanic populations was more than double the rate than for white, non-Hispanic populations. Black or African American non-Hispanic populations were 1.1 times more likely to become infected by COVID-19.1

In addition to communities of color, states were also affected by coronavirus at varying rates. As of May 2021, California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania reported the most COVID-19 deaths overall; Vermont had the least.2

The Ongoing Importance of Community Health

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s Healthy People 2030 initiative, the health of a community directly affects the quality of life of its members. In fact, community health has been found to impact educational achievement, crime rates, life expectancy, and more. That’s why the primary focus of the initiative is on building healthier communities, including increasing the number of organizations that offer preventive healthcare services, creating safer workplaces, and providing children with more opportunities to stay active.3

The Effects of Neglecting Community Health

Failing to prioritize community health can lead to challenging and complex problems. For instance, unhealthy communities tend to experience higher obesity rates. Factors leading to these increased rates often include the high cost of healthy food, a lack of peer/social support, and policies that dictate how a community is designed.4 As a result, chronic conditions—such as diabetes and heart disease—are more prevalent in unhealthy communities and, along with mental health conditions, account for 90% of the nation’s annual healthcare expenses.5 In this way, community health directly impacts the economy in addition to individual wellness.

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6Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Based on the most recent year of completions survey data available, using CIP code family 51.38 “Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research, and Clinical Nursing” for Master’s degrees (Award level 7). Available at (Retrieved January 2021; may consist of or include provisional release data.)

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing (BSN), master’s degree program in nursing (MSN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Walden University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (

Officially recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accreditation agency, CCNE is an autonomous accrediting agency contributing to the improvement of the public's health. CCNE ensures the quality and integrity of baccalaureate, graduate, and residency programs in nursing.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,