Health Programs

Health programs focus on raising awareness of healthy behaviors, fostering positive behavior change and enabling people to make healthier choices. These efforts may take many forms, from mass media campaigns to support groups and courses. They also include making systematic changes to laws, policies and the physical environment that promote or hinder healthy behaviors. The goal is to maximize health so that society achieves its most cherished values, such as ensuring children grow up healthy and are able to learn, that workers are productive and able to care for themselves and their families, that communities function well and that the elderly can enjoy their golden years.

The development and implementation of health programs requires innovation to develop a strong evidence base, scalable technical packages for a limited number of high-priority actions that will have significant impact, effective performance management, including rigorous real-time monitoring and evaluation, and engagement of civil society and funders. Examples of successful global health programs are smallpox eradication, tuberculosis control and the control of tobacco use and smoking.

Corporate wellness programs have shown to be effective in changing employee behaviors and creating a culture of health. These programs can be designed to address a wide variety of health issues, from diet and exercise to stress and depression, although many are focused on reducing workplace risks such as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity, which have been linked to higher costs, absenteeism, job turnover and performance.

For example, Johnson & Johnson’s employee wellness program has reduced the percentage of its workers who smoke by more than two-thirds and has reduced medical spending and absenteeism. The company has also seen an 8.3 percent increase in the percentage of its employees who engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors such as regular exercise, controlling weight and eating a nutritious diet.

Governmental health programs focus on reducing the burden of illness, injury and premature death through prevention and intervention measures such as vaccination, immunization and treatment. They include public and private programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Defense Department TRICARE program.

These programs require leadership and a clear vision, the ability to communicate effectively, and to develop a strong partnerships with local governments, community-based organizations and other stakeholders. They also need funding and a policy environment that supports their success.

Providing services that respond to the unique needs of diverse and underserved areas and populations is one of the most important functions of health centers. These private, non-profit or public entities provide comprehensive primary health care and supportive services in rural and urban settings for low-income and disadvantaged communities, people living with HIV, pregnant women and their families, and the health workforce. To meet their objectives, these health programs must provide a continuum of services and offer cost-effective, integrated, culturally competent and patient-directed healthcare delivery. They must also employ key quality improvement practices, such as a patient-majority governing board and the use of data systems to drive clinical and financial operations.

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