We all agree on that the quality of our health depends on the type of health we have. However, what is often left out are the ways in which we become healthy. A proper definition of health can be very broad. The most inclusive would probably be: a healthy body, mind and spirit. Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a state of full physical, mental and emotional well being and not just the absence of illness and infirmity. A wide variety of approaches have been used over the years for different purposes.
What exactly is meant by health? It may mean both physical well-being, which includes such things as being overweight or obese, and emotional well-being, which includes such things as coping with stress, depression, anxiety, anger, conflict, and other similar disorders. The term “public health” may also be used to refer to the promotion of general well being; for example, promoting better nutritional standards, more exercise and better access to quality health care.
The first phase of health promotion involves reducing the existing health disparities and promoting health education and awareness. This is done through policies like AIDS/HIV programs, cervical cancer programs, preventing mother-related health problems and maternal health. In developing countries, where communities are very poor, general practices are not enough to reduce health disparities, so it is important to address the lack of knowledge, exposure to preventable diseases and lack of access to quality health care and hygiene. Health promotion strategies should include population control, voluntary education, mass media campaigns, rural development, access to free-standing toilets and clean water and sanitation facilities and ensuring equal access to economic resources. Public health approaches are most successful when they focus on the most vulnerable people within a community, such as young girls in rural communities, women in employment, rural populations and ethnic groups, indigenous peoples and others.
Prevention is an essential element of any strategy to reduce health disparities. One of the ways to reduce the health disparities includes reducing the social conditions that promote health disparities, for example, the differential access to quality health care, hygiene, clean water and sanitation facilities and greater poverty and hunger. Promotion of healthier behaviors, like smoking cessation, weight management and exercise can go a long way toward addressing health equity. Reducing structural barriers like racial and gender discrimination, better access to quality education, employment and economic opportunities for ethnic and cultural minorities and the empowerment of low-income groups can also significantly reduce health equity.
In the planning phase, organizations and communities must identify the causes of health disparities, develop solutions to reduce health disparities and evaluate the impact of prevention strategies on reducing health disparities. One method to evaluate the impact of prevention strategies is the comparative analysis of health at the national, state and community level. Comparative analysis draws on different sources like cost data, mortality data, health disparities indicators like access to adequate medical care, life expectancy and other relevant factors to determine where the gaps are greatest. Development of a strategy for reducing health disparities is also dependent on setting the right goals and the means to achieve them. These aims must be both measurable and concrete in nature.
One important strategy for the reduction of health care disparities is identifying, monitoring and reducing health care disparities by developing policies and systems that address the social determinants of health equity. Policies and systems can be designed and implemented by governmental authorities, institutions or communities at local level. They can also be developed at the grass-roots level, through local organizations. However, if this is not done, the problem is likely to reoccur because the policies and measures will not be tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual, community or organization. The most effective way to overcome health care equity issues is to address them at the policy and program level.