Many factors influence how healthy we are. All these influencing factors are known collectively as determinants of health.

Health determinants can influence our health in either a positive or negative way. Determinants affecting health in a negative way are commonly referred to as risk factors. They can increase the likelihood of developing a chronic disease, or interfere in the management of existing conditions.

There are different groups of risk factors, behavioural risk factors are risk factors that individuals have the most ability to modify, such as diet, tobacco smoking and drinking alcohol. Biomedical risk factors are bodily states that carry relatively direct and specific risks for health—such as overweight and obesity and high blood pressure—and are often influenced by health behaviours.

Many chronic diseases share behavioural and biomedical risk factors that are largely preventable. Modifying these risk factors can reduce an individual's risk of developing a chronic disease and result in large health gains by reducing illness and rates of death.

Some of these function on an individual level, for example, health behaviours or genetic make-up, while others function at a broader societal level, such as the availability of health services or a clean and healthy environment.