Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is the condition “of full physical, mental and emotional well-being and not just the absence of illness and disease.” Numerous other definitions have also been used over the years for various purposes. Practitioners use health to evaluate and prevent disease, and it also serves as a general term to identify and monitor a person’s well being. Some other terms commonly associated with health include wellness, good health, functional health, resilience, and indigence.
A society that lacks healthy practices and behaviors is characterized by health care problems, and these become worse when health care needs are not readily accessible or affordable. The lack of health care also reduces quality of life, leading to higher rates of premature death and other medical conditions. In order to address health differences, several approaches have been adopted. These include:
Public Health: The primary objective of public health is to protect the health and well-being of the population through policies and programs. Community-based programs are some examples of such programs. Community-based health promotion projects aim at promoting physical and mental health by preventing diseases, maintaining and improving nutrition and enhancing the community’s environment. Prevention through disease prevention focuses on three key areas: early identification and education about conditions, practice and maintenance of effective infection control, and communication and awareness about conditions and risks. Public health emphasizes monitoring and evaluating the status of state and community-based programs, conducting research and evaluation, and providing support to community-based organizations in the implementation of programs. It also seeks to reduce health disparities by addressing issues that affect different communities, such as racism, socio-economic class, and gender.
CTCs and Other Public Health interventions: The goal of CTCs is to improve health by addressing health equity. By monitoring the progress of CTCs and other public health interventions, the focus of health promotion and health education has shifted from individual prevention to community prevention. For instance, the Center for Chronic Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the Healthy People initiative to improve public awareness about tobacco use and implement better strategies for controlling tobacco. The health education component of the initiative encourages adults to be tobacco-free. In addition, the states are adopting comprehensive tobacco control strategies, including licensing restrictions and taxation of tobacco products.
Health Equity and Structural Barriers: Health Equity refers to differences in health status that are associated with race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and other factors. Health equity is an essential concept of public health that is not only important for reducing health disparities, but also for preventing the development of serious health disparities and preventing and treating disease. Health Equity identifies health disparity and contributes to health equity by improving the overall health of the population. An example of a structural barrier to health equity is the disproportionate number of people who are obese or overweight compared to those who are slim or fit. Obesity creates health disparities by increasing the health-care costs and creating disabilities.
To address health equity, many public policies have been introduced and adapted to bring about changes in clinical practices, primary care, preventive services, hospitals, and other health care settings. Primary care programs like the National Health Service Act, Public Health Service Act, and the Prevention of Injury Act aim at maintaining quality care through primary health care and promoting health equity. Public policies aim at reducing health care disparities by improving access to quality health care and promoting healthy lifestyles. Educational programs are also implemented to address health equity concerns. A major contribution towards health equity is made by the National Health Services (NHS) through its National Health Service Corps.