Health promotion and illness prevention go hand in hand. While the former focuses on helping individuals increase control over their health, the latter focuses on the actions people can take to ensure they don’t become susceptible to diseases.
These two approaches, when combined, can revolutionize healthcare delivery. It offers holistic care that intertwines individual wellbeing with community health. Today’s global healthcare industry is shifting towards this dual-focused approach, which helps healthcare professionals, especially nurses, deliver the best patient care.
Aspiring nurses who want to use this approach to care for patients may ask: ‘How do I become a registered nurse?’ The process is straightforward. Reputable institutions, such as the University of Indianapolis, offer a completely online distance second degree called an Accelerated Bachelor of Science. This program helps students learn the necessary skills to become licensed as registered nurses in Indiana in as little as 15 months, including valuable one-on-one practical experience gained through a clinical placement.
This article will discuss the strategies healthcare professionals can use to promote health and prevent illnesses across all levels, whether individual, community or population.
Strategies to promote health and prevent illnesses in the healthcare field
Health promotion and disease prevention are critical areas in public health. These two approaches aim to enhance the overall health of individuals and communities. These are some of the strategies professionals can use to achieve it at all levels:
Healthy lifestyle education
The significance of healthy lifestyle education is backed by evidence that links daily habits to long-term health outcomes. Individuals are more likely to make beneficial decisions for their health when they know the consequences of their lifestyle choices.
Take a balanced diet, for instance. Health complications can be caused by consuming either excessive or insufficient nutrients. For example, diets high in saturated fats and sugar but low in fruit and vegetables have been consistently associated with the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. In 2018, the New England Journal of Medicine carried out a study where they observed that the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in nuts and olive oil, was associated with a reduction in the rate of occurrence of cardiovascular disease.
Another healthy lifestyle choice healthcare providers can educate individuals on is regular exercise. According to WHO, a lack of physical activity contributes to global mortality. A Taiwanese study backs this up by observing that a simple 15 minutes of exercise can extend one’s life by three years. The combination of exercise and good sleep are vital ingredients to a healthy life. Sleep deprivation has been linked to several health issues, including diabetes and hypertension.
These studies and research give the healthcare industry robust evidence to support their education. This way, hospitals, clinics and health organizations can integrate lifestyle education into routine patient consultations. They can advise their patients on sleep routines, diet and stress management. The industry can also collaborate with schools and workplaces to reiterate their education on healthy lifestyle choices. Empowering individuals with the advantages of living healthier can reduce healthcare costs in the long run, as the incidence of chronic diseases can be reduced. In addition, healthier individuals translate to increased productivity and improved quality of life.
Regular health checkups
Detecting the onset of a disease early can make significant differences in patients’ health outcomes.
Medical screenings, such as blood pressure screenings, can identify anomalies early. Hypertension, for instance, often presents asymptomatically, but measures can be taken against it when it’s detected early.
Another type of medical screening is cholesterol screening, which can identify risks for cardiovascular diseases. High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to heart attacks and strokes. The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) shared the importance of monitoring cholesterol through research that found that individuals with high cholesterol levels are at higher risk of cancer than those with normal levels. Screening for various cancers, such as mammograms for breast cancers, can detect malignancies at an early stage where treatment is more effective.
These health issues are easily identified when patients come in for regular checkups. The healthcare industry can enlighten patients on the importance of health checkups and even collaborate with employers to offer health screenings at the workplace. Another effective way of encouraging regular checkups is by notifying individuals when they’re due for a visit. Healthcare providers can remind patients using phone applications or automated messaging.
Mental health awareness
Mental health, mainly due to the fear of social stigma, often leads to under-recognition and, eventually, under-treatment. The ripple effects of untreated mental health disorders are evident in many areas. For instance, the World Health Organization reported that depression is the leading cause of disabilities in the world. Additionally, conditions such as anxiety are common but can often go undiagnosed, which may reduce an individual’s quality of life with no plausible explanation.
When it comes to how healthcare professionals can help in this situation, it is clear that they must be well-equipped to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health issues. This knowledge prepares them to intervene as soon as possible. They can also offer regular consultations, including screenings for common health issues.
To effectively achieve this, professionals should be educated on identifying the early signs of mental distress. They can also lead awareness campaigns that target the general public. By highlighting real-life testimonials, sharing stories of recovery and presenting factual information they can demystify mental health issues within the community. These campaigns can emphasize that mental health is treatable and that seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness but strength.
The healthcare industry can also partner with educational institutions. Incorporating mental health education into school curricula can help students understand what they’re going through and encourage tolerance and understanding from all students. Healthcare professionals can also harness the reach of social media. They can urge influential figures to candidly discuss their mental health issues to show people that anyone can be affected, and it doesn’t make them an outcast.
Community health workshops
Community health workshops can help healthcare professionals bridge the knowledge gap at the grassroots level. This can be achieved by engaging with community members through workshops that foster health education.
Healthcare professionals have the necessary expertise to spearhead these initiatives. They can collaborate with local community leaders, nonprofits and educational institutions to identify prevalent health concerns that affect the community. Discussing concerns with the heads of the community can help these professionals tailor their approach and provide relevant content to the community. This will help to maximize the impact of the workshops.
One notable example of community health intervention is the Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) initiative in New Mexico. This project used telemedicine to connect specialists with primary care providers in rural areas to educate them on hepatitis C treatment. This approach helped rural healthcare providers enhance treatment outcomes in underserved communities.
In cases where community leaders can’t point out a specific concern, there is a diverse range of topics for community health workshops. Healthcare professionals can talk about lifestyle diseases, mental health, nutrition and preventive care. They can also carry out tests to determine any prevailing issues. For instance, a fasting blood sugar test during an outreach can reveal whether a community has a high incidence rate of diabetes. In this region, the workshop can focus on dietary best practices, regular screenings and how patients can monitor their own blood glucose levels.
It may be difficult for underserved communities to understand and internalize this knowledge. Healthcare professionals can employ many strategies to support their teaching. Conducting interactive sessions where everybody can discuss, role-play and demonstrate their new knowledge can be helpful. This will help participants to feel included in their healthcare and can enhance engagement. When communicating with communities, drop the medical jargon. Use relatable anecdotes attendees can understand and invite other community members who have experienced similar health challenges to make the information more accessible. Healthcare professionals can also distribute user-friendly printed materials that can serve as a handy reference after the workshop.
Access to healthy foods
One of the responsibilities of healthcare workers, especially social workers, is ensuring access to basic needs in every community. This includes increasing access to food in areas known as food deserts, which are regions where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. These regions are vulnerable to sickness because of the limited access to nutritious foods. One way to address this is to promote community gardens, farmer’s markets and other fresh produce sources.
Healthcare workers can advocate for these within challenged communities. Their endorsement will support the credibility of these efforts and inspire community members to participate.
An example of an initiative like this is Detroit’s Greening of Detroit project. This urban farming project transformed vacant plots into productive green spaces that provide fresh produce and access to vegetables and fruits for the community. Their mission is to ensure “quality of life for Detroiters by planting trees, providing job training, and involving youth in the education of the natural environment.”
Community gardens are advantageous because they offer both health and social benefits. Healthcare professionals can collaborate with local municipalities to identify and allocate spaces for such gardens. They can also organize workshops on organic farming techniques, composting and crop rotation. This will help educate community members and help them develop a sense of collective ownership. The goal is to provide a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits to promote health and reduce the incidence of chronic diseases.
Safe public spaces
Parks, recreational centers and well-lit walking paths promote physical activity and bolster mental wellbeing. People are more likely to go for a night jog when the street is well-lit, and older adults can perform gentle exercises with the equipment in the park. Healthcare professionals understand the intricate ties between the environment and health, making them excellent advocates for creating and maintaining such spaces. They can also liaise with community leaders and mayors to implement this approach.
A practical example of this liaison is the Bogotá renovation in Colombia. Former Mayor Enrique Peñalosa revolutionized the city’s public spaces. He prioritized pedestrian zones, bike paths and parks. This encouraged physical activity, where everyone from the rich to the poor took buses to work and walked the pedestrian streets in the evening. It also fostered community interactions, as people could get to know each other more.
To ensure complete safety, healthcare professionals can consult with local law enforcement and city planners. City staff can provide data-driven insights that show where injuries or incidents have been reported to advocate for better lighting, patrolling and surveillance. They can also ensure the path is clear with no obstructions in the way to help prevent accidents. Safety measures such as visible crosswalks and speed breakers can further reduce the risk of accidents.
Public health campaigns
When well-executed, public health campaigns can shift societal behaviors and health outcomes. Healthcare professionals can leverage mass media and partnerships to create campaigns to disseminate essential health information. This can encourage healthier behaviors on a vast scale.
Public health campaigns are more effective when they consider the following factors:
- Data-driven approach: Before launching a campaign, healthcare professionals can research the most pressing health concerns affecting specific demographics. They can utilize data-driven approaches, such as surveys, focus groups and epidemiological studies, to gain insights into prevalent unhealthy habits and potential motivators.
- Message framing: It’s crucial to craft messages that resonate with the target audience. Healthcare professionals can guide the tone and content of their message to ensure it is scientifically accurate and compelling.
- Media strategy: Utilizing a mix of traditional media, such as TV, radio and newspapers, alongside digital platforms, such as social media, apps and websites, can broaden the campaign’s reach. Healthcare professionals can participate in interviews, write op-eds or share personal anecdotes to humanize the movement.
- Community engagement:Healthcare providers should host workshops, seminars and community events that can provide hands-on education. They can also offer consultations and Q&A sessions to engage the community directly.
Public health campaigns won’t create sudden changes. It’s a gradual process that may take months and sometimes years. For instance, the “Truth” anti-smoking campaign aimed at curbing youth smoking used provocative ads to convey the dangers of smoking in a way youths would understand. As a result, the campaign prevented 450,000 teens from smoking between 2000 and 2004. This showcases how powerful a well-orchestrated public health message can be.
While these strategies can be effective on their own, combining them across personal, community and broader population levels can achieve a more significant and holistic improvement in public health.