Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is the “state of full physical, emotional and social well being and not just the absence of sickness and disease.” Over time, various definitions for health have been employed for various purposes. Some of these are discussed below.
First, health is a state that involves the whole person, which includes the mind, body and spirit. Therefore, it is important for public health educators to focus on this concept when designing programs for better health. The entire education system should be made aware of how health influences all aspects of life including emotions, attitudes, behavior and communication. Health promotion is then an essential component of community development. In this regard, some public health programs are focused on issues such as smoking cessation, substance abuse, diabetes management and other aspects of preventing chronic diseases.
Second, health promotion is a system approach that seeks to address individual behaviors and other sociological factors that contribute to health disparities. For example, smoking prevalence and other social determinants such as poverty and educational attainment differ between countries. However, there are clear differences in the quality and measures of living standards between regions. Health promotion thus has two aspects, namely system perspective and individual perspective. System perspective addresses changes in public policies and practices that affect individual lifestyles and health. Individual perspective, on the other hand, focuses on the attitudes, behaviors and thoughts of individuals and their relation to determinants such as income and education.
Third, health promotion is about making the right decisions. While changes in societal attitudes toward health and behaviors can reduce disparities, these cannot be changed once people have reached a certain level of comfort with existing practices. Hence, health promotion means encouraging and aiding individuals to adopt new behaviors that can reduce health disparities and improve overall health. For example, smoking cessation programs and activities, community health events and interventions and dietary assessment and management strategies. Interventions refers to interventions aimed at improving the quality of life of people at risk of excessive deaths from diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Fourth, health promotion is about taking concrete steps. There are multiple ways of bringing about change. However, if we do not take bold steps, chances are that our efforts will be fruitless. A five-year action plan on public health emphasizes the role of government in ensuring that public policies to support health equity. A five-year action plan also lays down an action plan to ensure that public policies help reduce the disparity in health outcomes across racial and economic groups.
Finally, health promotion is about taking coordinated actions. This requires developing comprehensive plans, developing concrete goals and strategies, and engaging the community in implementing them. In this final phase, implementation of the plan relies heavily on the active involvement of local residents and community partners. The success of a program is measured by its impact on the lives of the people who have been affected by it – on their health and their families. A five-year action plan on public health ensures its success by building on the initial efforts and incorporating new ideas into its design.