Health programs are designed to reduce the burden of disease, disability and other negative outcomes for individuals. Public health research, policy and practice aim to achieve this goal through a range of activities that focus on individual, community and societal factors that affect health (called “determinants”).
Prevention is an important component of public health and involves efforts to prevent disease through prevention strategies. This includes promoting healthy lifestyles, providing access to health care, and controlling infectious diseases and environmental hazards that contribute to illness and injury. It also involves efforts to control the spread of a disease through vaccination, sanitary practices, and distribution of condoms.
Many public health efforts involve a variety of stakeholders, including government agencies, community organizations and private partners. These partnerships can be a vital part of the success of public health programs. In addition, they provide opportunities for collaboration and mutual learning among groups and sectors involved in improving population health.
The most effective public health programs are based on an evidence-based technical package. This includes a selected group of proven interventions that will achieve and sustain substantial improvements in a particular risk factor or disease outcome. It is important to determine which strategies are most likely to have the greatest impact on a given population, as well as their estimated costs. A rigorously established technical package enables implementation of the most cost-effective and effective strategies that can be scaled up to meet local and regional needs.
Developing an effective program requires effective communication about the benefits and the threats to health. The message must be convincing and include a clear and concise business case for the proposed action. It must also highlight unacceptable existing disease burdens, health outcomes and disparities that need to be addressed. Using anecdotes and examples of people who have been harmed by existing policies or benefitted from specific programs is often an essential component of communication.
Innovation is an important aspect of health programs that helps generate the political commitment needed to make them a reality. A robust, compelling innovation agenda provides the driving force for other elements of successful implementation such as a rigorously established technical package, management, partnerships and communication. The technical package should be derived from the results of rigorous and carefully analyzed studies that describe the burden caused by each risk factor, how it is influenced by a range of related factors, and which intervention strategies have been shown to be most effective.
A high-quality intervention package should be based on the latest scientific evidence, with strong ties to local and regional priorities and resources. In addition, it must be designed to achieve a wide population impact and must be manageable and scalable so that it can be sustained in practice.
To be effective, the program must include a robust leadership team with the necessary skills to implement it. This team is ideally comprised of individuals from all relevant sectors, such as government, business, academia, and nonprofits. The leadership must be committed to the project from the beginning and be prepared to invest in it to ensure its success.