Health programs include a wide variety of efforts to prevent disease, improve the health of individuals and populations, and reduce disparities in access to care. They can be found in government, private businesses and nonprofit organizations across the country.
Common public health initiatives involve promoting hand-washing and breastfeeding, vaccinations, improved ventilation both indoors and outdoors, suicide prevention, smoking cessation, obesity education, increasing healthcare accessibility and distribution of condoms to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
The term “health” refers to the totality of a person’s physical, mental and social well-being, including their capacity to enjoy life in an optimal way. The field of public health involves an interdisciplinary approach that includes epidemiology, biostatistics, behavioral and social sciences as well as management of health services.
Community health programs are organized by local governments to provide medical, dental and social services to the people of a neighborhood or district. Typical services include medical, dental and psychiatric treatment, special clinics, vaccination programs and community outreach campaigns.
School health programs are integrated into the curriculum to promote student learning and healthy lifestyles through a wide range of activities. These include regular infusions of health issues into all subject areas, guidance and counseling curricula, pupil services plans, social and extracurricular clubs and programming and opportunities for students to practice generic personal and social skills such as problem solving, decision making and communication.
Depending on the needs and resources available, school health services may be provided by a nurse or health educator in a designated school or clinic or by delegating these activities to other schools. This delegation process is regulated by state law and policy and requires that the school nurse provide training and ongoing supervision for the delegated personnel regarding their delegation of care activities.
Staff development in health promotion is a key component of a comprehensive school health program. Several professional development seminars are offered to school staff throughout the year in areas such as employee assistance programs, stress reduction, tobacco cessation, nutrition education, weight management and aerobic activity. Upon the completion of the seminars, staff members are provided with continuing education and health promotion materials to use in their work with school personnel.
A comprehensive school health program is a collaborative effort that includes district, school and community staff and stakeholders. This collaboration is based on the assessment of identified needs and the development of goals, objectives and strategies. The goals and objectives are then used to formulate a plan of action with an interdisciplinary/interagency coordinating council that represents all segments of the community.
The coordinating council also coordinates and supports the activities of a health coordinator, a child nutrition director, a health educator, a school psychologist and a coach to achieve identified objectives. The council meets regularly to assess needs, initiate recommendations and evaluate programs.
Health equity refers to the ability of all people to have fair and equal opportunities to achieve optimal health and well-being. This is achieved through policies and systems that enable and support the healthy functioning of individuals, families and communities, removing barriers such as poverty, racism, gender discrimination, ableism and other forms of oppression.