Public Health Promotion – Promoting Wellness Amongst Us
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition of total physical, mental and emotional well being and not just the absence of sickness and disease. Various definitions have been applied to health over the years. In United States, health is seen to be something we are or should be, and we get health when we are born. We acquire health from growing up and the major part of our growth is during childhood. Mental health is about the way we think and act, and we develop this in us through our childhood.
A major component of managing disease is through physical, mental, and social well being. Our public health policies give great importance to these three aspects in people’s lives, but little thought goes into the development of our life course, what we do with it as we age, and what habits we may develop along the way. Managing disease depends on preventing, reducing, and eliminating existing diseases, and also preventing new ones from developing. By far the best strategy is to prevent illness before it develops, and this process can be better achieved through a combination of healthy habits and public health interventions.
The United States has some of the highest levels of health equity compared to other countries. Health equity refers to differences in quality of life among different people who live in the same country. These differences are usually in the areas of diet, health, life expectancy, disability, access to health services, social services, and health insurance. People in the United States fare worse than most other developed countries in several areas. These areas of poor health include; the rate of childhood overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, unhealthy weights or obese populations, lack of physical education in schools, racial/ethnic discrimination, social class gaps in health, poor nutritional status, and lack of access to clean water.
In addition to health conditions, other factors contribute to poor health or poor well-being. These include stress, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, tobacco use, and other psychological or behavioral disorders. Although these problems do not cause disease themselves, they contribute to other health risks such as a higher rate of heart attack, stroke, and other heart complications, pain, and injury. Psychological disorders such as depression have been linked to poor nutritional status as well as poor self-esteem, making it crucial that these disorders be treated in a manner that promotes recovery and well-being. Public health professionals are responsible for promoting mental health by educating the public about depression and its treatment; and by providing resources to increase the number of individuals who seek treatment for their disorders.
Prevention is another important area of public health promotion. One effective way of preventing health inequities is to address social determinants of health prior to becoming ill. By living a healthy lifestyle that promotes physical activity, balanced diet, and a reduction in fat and sugary food intake, the chance of developing health conditions increases. This type of prevention often makes people feel better about themselves and increases their ability to live with a sense of control over their health. Another way to promote health is to reduce stress; healthy stress management techniques such as yoga and meditation have been shown to be effective tools in decreasing the feelings of stress a person has over various health issues. These methods have also been found to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, two major public health factors.
The practice of healthy lifestyle habits also leads to better mental health. In order to be mentally healthy, a person must be physically fit. A physically fit individual is able to cope with both positive and negative situations, be accepting of his or her body, and has high levels of confidence. Being mentally fit may also lead to an individual’s longer life span. Older adults who are physically fit have longer life expectancies and are less likely to develop coronary artery disease or have a stroke. The elderly should make sure to take care of their bodies in order to enjoy a higher quality of life.