Health Programs

Health programs focus on prevention – eliminating or reducing risk factors that can lead to disease, injury and disability. They can be organized at the local, regional or national level. Individuals, organizations and governments can implement programs to promote healthy lifestyles, provide access to care and support research. Government programs include Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, among others.

Taking an active role in one’s own health can help an individual to feel more productive, decrease medical expenses and achieve a greater sense of wellbeing. Many employers offer wellness programs that encourage employees to eat better, lose weight and exercise more. These programs are designed to reduce employee absence and the need for costly workers’ compensation claims.

A community health program provides education, treatment and special clinics for a specific population of residents. This type of program may target health problems such as AIDS, tuberculosis, obesity, heart disease and mental illness. Community health programs are often found in low-income neighborhoods.

The field of public health focuses on preventing diseases, injuries and disabilities in people through educational programs, research, disease surveillance and treatment and responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases. It is a broad field that encompasses a range of issues, including developing healthy communities, promoting health equity, preventing chronic diseases, and ensuring a safe food supply.

School health educators integrate healthy choices into academic subjects and activities. They may be responsible for teaching health as a subject, coordinating and implementing Coordinated School Health Programs and facilitating family/community involvement in schools. They also identify and advocate; write funding proposals; conduct research; develop curriculum and instructional materials; teach whole courses or individual classes; use peer instruction and other innovative approaches to learning; and create school/community partnerships.

In addition to focusing on student health and safety, health educators also address staff, family and community issues. They participate in the interdisciplinary school health team and coordinating council; teach staff development sessions; and develop community resource personnel.

A major challenge is to recognize the role that structural racism and unequal distribution of power, wealth and resources plays in determining poor health outcomes for individuals and communities. This recognition is the basis of health equity — the belief that all individuals have a right to equitable access to health and well-being. It requires that the nation and all citizens work together to ensure that all people can participate in the process of establishing, maintaining and protecting their health. Ultimately, this is a fundamental right of citizenship. To advance this goal, all sectors of society must participate — from schools to the private sector.

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