Researchers at Louisiana State University and Baylor University began their exploration by recognizing an argument could be made in a different direction: Some say it is large companies, such as Big Box retail outlets, which would be associated with higher quality community health. These large retailers would be more likely than small retailers to provide health care insurance, and health care coverage is often considered the single most significant determinant of community health.
But when the Louisiana/Baylor researchers analyzed data from 3,060 counties in the contiguous United States, they found that small businesses contributed in powerful ways other than funding trips to a doctor. A thriving community of merchants serves both as a cause and an indicator of investment in the neighborhood.
- More interest in disease and injury prevention. There’s a greater push for recreational facilities, health education, workplace safety, anti-smoking legislation, and buying at local farmers’ markets.
- Sustained support for health care access. There were more bond issues for health infrastructure, such as community hospitals, and drives to recruit physicians and other health care professionals.
- Lower rates of death, obesity, and diabetes.
Successful small businesses are owned and operated by people with an entrepreneurial spirit. The psychology of the entrepreneur features self-development. You’re responsible for yourself. “If it is to be, it is up to me.” Take care of yourself, your family, your customers, and your customers’ families.
Because collective efficacy is a state of mind, the benefits include mental health as well as physical health.
Note that these research findings do not say that a community with an abundance of large retailers is less healthy than one without. The community of merchants which thrives will have a blend of different-sized retail businesses, all of them working toward mutual success and, by doing so, toward the health of the neighborhood.
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