The mission of Puentes de Salud is twofold: It exists to ensure the health and wellness of South Philadelphia’s rapidly growing Latino immigrant community; and it serves to educate future generations of community advocates, health care providers, educators and leaders by providing opportunities for responsible and respectful community engagement.
In 1946, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being; not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Amid the sophisticated technologic advances that dominate modern medicine, such a holistic view of wellness seems to have vanished. Yet, the medical literature informs us that health care provided by doctors and nurses plays only a small role in the production of health.
Researchers estimate that medical care can prevent only 10 percent of premature deaths; behavioral patterns and social factors play a much greater role in preventing disease and maintaining health. More recently, the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health noted “the profound impact that education, child development, literacy, social inequality, job security, physical and social environments, food security, discrimination, access to services and social safety nets have on health outcomes.” While mounting evidence clearly predicts the need for action on these important factors, the concept of social determinants of health (SDH) is largely neglected by health care providers, educators, and administrators.
Puentes de Salud believes that a comprehensive strategy to promote wellness in any community must also target the SDH. Working in partnership with community members, local public schools, universities, service-based organizations, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the local government, and the Mexican Consulate, Puentes de Salud tackles the economic and social conditions that profoundly affect the health of individuals in this vibrant immigrant population.