Posted: March 16th, 2022
Health promotion, disease prevention, and health maintenance are related terms that all pertain to public health. The World Health Organization (WHO, 2011) defines health promotion as “the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behaviour towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions.” Promoting health involves marketing and publicizing information that can help individual consumers, communities, and organizations make decisions that reflect scientifically proven methods of creating health. For example, if scientists discover that smoking causes cancer, a public health organization can create public service announcements related to that finding. The public service announcements might include television advertisements as well as advertisements in newspapers and magazines. In addition to using marketing channels, a public health promotion program can include changing public policy to reflect public health and evidence-based practice. For instance, the banning of smoking in public areas reflects the health promotion campaign. Changing policies in schools as well as private organizations is also a goal of health promotion.
Disease prevention is related to health promotion, but is generally targeted at specific conditions. Those specific conditions might depend on the demographics of the community. For example, some illnesses impact certain ethnic groups more than others or certain age groups more than others. Issues impacting seniors, for instance, would be disease prevention concerns in areas with large elder populations. A disease prevention campaign would then target the population most affected by the disease. Disease prevention combines individual responsibility with public health awareness and public policy. Obesity, for example, is a common problem in the United States. The diseases related to obesity that can be prevented can be the target of advertising campaigns and media awareness. Local newspaper editors can participate in disease prevention programs by asking their team of writers to investigate the ill health effects of eating fast food, or the ill effects of pesticides. Preventing diseases like skin cancer might result in a greater use of sunscreen due to public awareness campaigns. Disease prevention may entail offering communities vaccinations and screenings at little to no cost; disease prevention is especially important when epidemics occur. To stem the spread of contagious disease, the government sometimes needs to step in, as in the case with health scares like avian flu and swine flu.
Health maintenance, like disease prevention, is largely an individual effort but one that depends on public health services. To maintain health, though, the individual consumer must be educated as to what lifestyle habits help maintain health. Cities need to participate in health maintenance programs by creating more green spaces and opportunities for citizens to walk. Health maintenance does entail public health organizations working with scientists to craft guidelines that can promote health such as good diet and exercise habits. Maintaining health is a preventative practice that ultimately reduces health care spending. Regular check-ups are part of a health maintenance program, and therefore health care clinics and doctors need to promote regular checkups by lowering their prices. Similarly, health care clinics and institutions can offer free screenings for specific diseases.
Health promotion, disease prevention, and health maintenance are related but not interchangeable terms. Each facet of public health involves the community as well as the individual. With rising health care costs, it is important to divert more attention to education and awareness. Prevention is the first step towards reducing health care spending.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2011).
Cleveland Clinic (2011). Health maintenance guide for adults. Retrieved online: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/Documents/Family_Health_Centers/adult-health-guidelines.pdf
WHO (2011). Health promotion. Retrieved online: http://www.who.int/topics/health_promotion/en/
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