Public Health and Healthy Communities

Public Health agencies played a significant role in the past and continue to contribute in improving the overall health of communities through various interventions, focusing on prevention rather than treatment. These preventative measures include but are not limited to sanitizing drinking water, implementing immunizations to eradicate infectious diseases, and creating many programs that promote behaviors beneficial for a healthy community. What is a healthy community?

According to the publication Healthy People in Healthy Communities, a healthy community is “one that embraces the belief that health is more than merely an absence of disease” (Healthy People 1). A healthy community also “includes those elements that enable people to maintain a high quality of life and productivity” (1). Access to health care services is vital for citizens to maintain their health. In addition, people living in a healthy and safe environment need basic structural provisions such as safe roads, schools, playgrounds, parks etc.

Healthy People 2010 states two primary goals: “to increase the quality and years of healthy life of all Americans” especially since USA ranks low amongst other countries in average lifespan (78. 9 for females vs. 82. 9 for females in Japan), and “to eliminate disparities in health status” (Healthy People 2). Achieving these goals will not be an easy task. These goals require patience, commitment and energy from federal, state and local governments, public health agencies, medical institutions, schools, community groups, and most importantly the citizens themselves.

Ultimately, the goal of this project seeks to improve the health of the nation by promoting health and preventing diseases. There are twenty-eight focus areas within US communities that aim in improving the overall health of USA. However, the United States condenses these major public health concerns into ten priorities called “Leading Health Indicators” (4). “Community health is profoundly affected by the collective beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of everyone who lives in the community,” not just government officials, public health agencies, or medical institutions (Healthy People 2010 3).

Thus, the vision of making healthy people and communities can be achieved through collective efforts between individuals and the communities, namely by forming a healthy community coalition. The report Healthy People 2010 outlines the ten Leading Health Indicators and problems for the United States, and their implications. It is important to note that the ten Leading Health Indicators reflect upon individual behaviors, physical and social environmental factors, but not chronic factors.

Leading Health Indicators vary from responsible sexual behavior, mental health, injury and violence, to physical activity, overweight and obesity, tobacco use and substance abuse, to environmental quality, immunization and access to health care. Each section of the ten Leading Health Indicators show statistics from previous years and compare them with today’s statistics in order to track progress and determine new goals. Physical Activity, a Leading Health Indicator, shows decline in physical activity among individuals 18 years or older.

The goal of this next section is to increase the proportion of not only adults but also children involved in moderate and vigorous physical activity. Due to limited resources, our task force devotes its efforts to one specific focus area, physical activity. After a broad discussion with government and state officials, our team identified a great need in this subject. While we are well aware of the importance of all other focus areas, our task force believes that promoting physical activity will enable individuals, which comprise the communities, to sustain a healthier lifestyle and affect positively other focus areas.

For example overweight and obesity is linked closely with physical activity. Exercising daily reduces the risk of diabetes caused by obesity or being overweight. We believe that through encouraging daily health-enhancing physical activities peoples’ quality of life can increase. Physically active individuals tend to outlive those who are not. This fact shows that physical activity encompasses increase in lifespan and enhances one’s quality of life, which is one of the two primary goals of Healthy People 2010.

Coronary Heart Disease is “leading cause of death and disability in the United States. ” (Physical Activity 3). In addition to controlling weight, physical activity also reduces the risk of developing or dying from heart disease and stroke, thus lowering healthcare costs. The goal of our task force is to increase the number of people performing daily physical activity. First, we plan to create a promotional plan, which would include as many institutions as possible, from schools to businesses to hospitals and most importantly local and state government agencies.

Our task force committed to this particular focus area particularly because there are very few people involved in daily physical activity: “40% of adults in the US do not participate in any regular physical activity” (Healthy People 2010 4). We recommend educational programs starting in every school. We think that children should be informed early about the benefits of regular exercise by exposing them to various daily physical activities.

Each morning before classes start, we recommend a mandatory 15-30 minute exercise session. The purpose of this program is for children to get used to exercising daily and make exercising a priority in their lifestyle. Furthermore, we plan to encourage children to play outdoors. According to a research, 25% of US children watch TV for four or more hours per day. Our team believes, if the government builds safe playground areas, children would spend less time in front of the television.

Additionally, we recommend that schools make their facilities available for physical activity programs, which will in turn result in lower rates of crime and violence since “most juvenile crime is committed between 3 and 8 p. m. ” (Physical Activity 26). Similarly, adults need to be educated as well. This can be done through various resources including primary care physicians, foot care clinics, occupational facilities and others. We think that detailed information accompanied with true testimonies about the benefits of physical activities would help people understand the importance of daily exercise.

Everyone knows physical activity is good for you, but not everyone knows its actual advantages. Not everyone knows how much and how to exercise. Our task force is committed to developing educational programs, pamphlets that would serve as promotional guides to members of the community to adopt physical active behavior. In order to construct the recommendations, we plan to join forces with a panel of researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine.

As part of the promotional campaign, our task force recommends that local and state governments distribute educational DVD’s that contain explanation about the benefits of physical activity and a short 30-minute presentation of moderate physical exercises for adults, suitable for both, men and women. Our final recommendation is to build more bike paths/lanes to encourage working people to commute by bicycle. What distinguishes physical activity from other focus areas such as cancer is that it does not require substantial resources.

It is relatively inexpensive, if not even free. Physical Activity mostly requires personal commitment and motivation, which includes creating time. All of the recommendations that our task force made encompass one ultimate goal: to inform people about the importance of physical activity and its benefits. Our priority is to focus on children’s health because they comprise the future of our society, and by teaching them to adopt healthy lifestyles we hope to substantially decrease the rate of physically inactive people and thus reduce the risk of obesity and chronic diseases.

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