Concepts of Health and Public Health: Different Perspectives on Health and the Elements of Health Promotion

Concepts of Health and Public Health: Different Perspectives on Health and the Elements of Health Promotion

The word health is widely used in public communication, and yet its meaning looks simple. However, closer looks show various and diverse meanings. The new public health is comprehensive in scope. It relates to or encompasses all community and individual activities directed towards reducing factors that contribute to the burden of disease and foster those that relate directly to improved health.

 Definition of Health

1. People say they are healthy when they are doing their activities with no apparent symptoms of disease in them.

2. Health can also be a measure of the state of the physical bodily Organs, and the ability of the body as a whole to function. It refers to freedom from medically defined diseases.

3. The most universal definition by the World Health Organization (WHO) in1948, Health was described as ―A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Different Perspectives on Health

Health is viewed as a right, as consumption good, and as an investment. Some view health as a right similar to justice or political freedom. The WHO constitution sates that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, and political belief, economic or social condition”. Others view health as an important individual objective of material aspect i.e. as consumption good. The third view considers health as an investment indicates health as an important prerequisite for development because of its consequence on the overall production through its effect on the productive ability of the productive force. These different views indicate differences in the emphases given to health by governments.

The WHO definition envisages three specific dimensions (physical, mental, and social), some other dimensions like spiritual, emotional may also be included.

Physical health: is concerned with anatomical integrity and physiological functioning of the body. It means the ability to perform routine tasks without any physical restriction. For instance, Physical fitness is needed to walk from place to place.

Mental Health: is the ability to learn and think clearly and coherently e.g., a person who is not mentally fit (retarded) could not learn something new at a pace in which an ordinary normal person learns.

Social health: is the ability to make and maintain acceptable interaction with other people. For instance, to celebrate during festivals; to mourn when a close family member dies; to create and maintain friendship and intimacy, etc.

Emotional health: is the ability of expressing emotions in the appropriate way, for example to fear, to be happy, and to be angry. The response of the body should be congruent with that of the stimuli. Emotional health is related to mental health and includes feelings. It also means maintaining one‘s own integrity in the presence of stressful situation such as tension, depression and anxiety.

Spiritual Health: Some people relate health with religion; for others it has to do with personal values, beliefs, principles and ways of achieving mental satisfaction, in which all are related to their spiritual wellbeing.

Definition of Public health

Public health is defined as the science and art of preventing diseases, prolonging life, promoting health and efficiencies through organized community effort. It is concerned with the health of the whole population and the prevention of disease from which it suffers.

It is also one of the efforts organized by society to protect, promote, and restore the people’s health. It is the combination of sciences, skills and beliefs that is directed to the maintenance and improvement of the health of all the people through collective social actions. Public health involves both direct and indirect approaches.

Direct measures in public health include immunization of children, modern birth control, hypertension, and diabetes case findings. Indirect methods used in public health protect the individual by community-wide means, such as raising standards of environmental safety, assurance of a safe water supply, sewage disposal and improved nutrition.

In public health practice, both direct and indirect approaches are relevant.

Key Terms in the definition

Health Promotion: Health promotion is a guiding concept involving activities intended to enhance individual community health and well-being. It seeks to increase involvement and control of the individual and the community in their own health. It acts to improve health and social welfare, and to reduce specific determinants of diseases and risk factors that adversely affect the health, well-being, and productive capacities of an individual or society, setting targets based on the size of the problem, but also the feasibility of successful interventions, in a cost-effective way.

Health promotion is a key element in public health and is applicable in the community, clinics or hospitals, and in all other service settings. Raising awareness and informing people about health and lifestyle factors that might put them at risk requires teaching.

 The Elements of Health Promotion Comprises of:-

1. Addressing the population as a whole in health related issues, in everyday life as well as people at risk for specific diseases:

2. Directing action to risk factors or causes of illness or death;

3. Undertaking activities approach to seek out and remedy risk factors in the community that adversely affect health;

4. Promoting factors that contribute to a better condition of health of the population;

5. Initiating actions against health hazards, including communication, education, legislation, fiscal measures, organizational change, community development, and spontaneous local activities;

6. Involving public participation in defining problems deciding on action;

7. Advocating relevant environmental, health, and social policy;

8. Encouraging health professional’s participation in health education and health policy.

Definition of Prevention

Prevention refers to the goals of medicine that are to promote, to preserve, and to restore health when it is impaired, and to minimize suffering and distress.

There are three levels of prevention:

Primary Prevention:  refers to those activities that are undertaken to prevent the disease and injury from occurring. It works with both the individual and the community. It may be directed at the host, to increase resistance to the agent (such as immunization or cessation of smoking), or may be directed at environmental activities to reduce conditions favourable to the vector for a biological agent, such as mosquito vectors of malaria.

Secondary Prevention:  is the early diagnosis and management to prevent complications from a disease. It includes steps to isolate cases and treat or immunize contacts to prevent further epidemic outbreaks.

Tertiary Prevention: involves activities directed at the host but also at the environment in order to promote rehabilitation, restoration, and maintenance of maximum function after the disease and its complications have stabilized. Providing a wheelchair, special toilet facilities, doors, ramps, and transportation services for paraplegics are often the most vital factors for Rehabilitation.

Definition of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is the process of restoring a person‘s social identity by repossession of his/her normal roles and functions in society. It involves the restoration and maintenance of a patient‘s physical, psychological, social, emotional, and vocational abilities. Interventions are directed towards the consequences of disease and injury.

The provision of high quality rehabilitation services in a community should include the following:

1. Conducting a full assessment of people with disabilities and suitable support systems;

2. Establishing a clear care plan;

3. Providing measures and services to deliver the care plan.

There are various and diverse ways to define health; that is health is multidimensional. Public health is also one of the efforts organized by society to protect, promote, and restore the people’s health. It is the combination of sciences, skills and beliefs that is directed to the maintenance and improvement of the health of all the people through collective social actions.

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