Health Promotion Strategies And Approaches

Introduction

Health promotion is a term that has been described and defined differently over time, however, for this paper, the description that will be used will be as per Green and Krueter (1999). Health promotion, therefore, can be described as “any planning combination of educational, political, regulatory, community and organizational supports for actions and conditions of living that contribute to the health of individuals, groups, or communities.” For health promotion to take place successfully, health promoters are instrumental, and they have to be invested in implementing the various health promotion strategies and approaches. Due to the central role played by health promoters, they have to have expert knowledge so that they are better equipped to educate and increase awareness. Throughout history, health promotion has been advocated and carried out by a group of people such as health practitioners, nurses and others. This advocacy for health with a keen eye on the various factors that impact health such as environmental factors have had positive consequences and empowered both individuals and communities. This paper will focus on supporting the argument of health promoters being equipped enough and having expert knowledge to play the role of empowering others.

Background

The prevalence of obesity in children has increased tremendously over the last decade. This increase in obesity among children can be attributed to different factors that contribute to the health issue. Some of the factors include increased consumption of low nutrition, high calorie constitution such as processed foods, processed snacks and fast foods; leading a sedentary lifestyle and also genetic conditions that only contribute to a small percentage of the affected population. Due to different variables, education, awareness and action calls had for a long time been neglected until the situation became dire.

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Veronika Wirtz, in her report, asserts that “globally, the rate of childhood obesity has increased dramatically over the past two decades and is still rising in some countries (e.g. Canada, Mexico, China and India).15 The proportion of obese children in Canada has increased from 10% in the 1980s to 30% in 1990s, and in Brazil from 4% to 14% during the same period.16 Also in India and China, childhood obesity continues to rise.15 It has been estimated that nearly every other child in North America (40%) and Eastern Mediterranean WHO regions is overweight or obese; in Europe 38%, in the western Pacific 27%, and in South-East Asia 22%”. These alarming numbers only further push public health and governments to work towards helping prevent more cases and also call for action to reduce the prevalence which is where health promotion and promoters come in.

While health promotion might seem like a relatively new term, the concept has been there for a long time. Promotion of good health, however, supersedes time and even frameworks and healthcare structures with communities and governments aiming for better public health since time immemorial (Steere-Williams, 2012).. Additionally, more information and research has been conducted on obesity, and these new studies continue to improve the knowledge of health promoters in their quest to empower communities and households. In exploring the background of health promotion and health promoters, a few factors will be briefly argued to provide a backdrop to the issue. Some of the factors include environment and sanitation, social control, social hygiene and bacteriological revolution.

Critical Discussion/ Reasons for Support

Prior to discussing the reasons behind the support offered for the argument, it is critical to define and understand who a health promoter is, what their role is and also the responsibilities that they have towards individuals and communities. A health promoter or a health promotion officer is a health professional whose focus is on maintaining and improving the health of both individual and communities through the action areas as laid out in various charters such as the Ottawa Charter (Carlisle, 2010). For example, according to the Ottawa Charter, a health promoter is responsible for the building of public health policies, the orientation of health services, the creation of supportive environments, strengthening of community action and the development of personal skills.

The concept, role and the responsibility of a health promotion professional have evolved as a response to the changes experienced in the world and also to the international promotion of health. One of the ways that health professional empowers the population on health is through embracing actions aimed at the strengthening the capabilities and the skills of the population and also by focusing on the changing political, social, economic and environmental conditions to help in the positively impacting the health of the individuals. To understand that the health promoters have knowledge and expertise to empower communities it is critical to consider that they are first taught on planning, development and implementation of health promotions which uses various strategies. Some of the strategies include health education strategies, mass media strategies, health policy strategies, social marketing strategies, lobbying strategies, and community engagement processes (Carlisle, 2010).

Health promoters also debunk the idea that health is unachievable for lower class income families and populations instead, they help the population access practices that help in the promotion of health. In contemporary health promotion, the idea of a group being able to realize their health goals, ambitions and also successfully satisfy needs and coping with the environment is a notion that is accepted. Health promotion is first perceived by the health promoters as a process where they increase control over, and also help in improving their health. One of the core aims in health promotion is the empowering of individuals and communities. The source of this aim was gathered from the knowledge acquired that there were many factors that contained the administration of proper health services and optimum health (Hung et al., 2014). These factors include low self-esteem, poverty, inadequate housing, and inadequate sanitation among others.

Another reason why health promoters are also well equipped to handle and help in the promotion of health is that they have understood the influence that the mentioned factors have on health, and they use various strategies in helping individuals and communities to aim for better health. They empower people by showing them how each of these factors affects their health. Additionally, with organizations such as WHO, a non-governmental organization committed to helping the population with health-related issues, health promoters have access to resources that help them gain relevant information and expertise useful for empowering communities. For example, the WHO Ottawa Charter for health promotion has been influential in inspiring healthcare professionals in redefining, and changing the scope and landscape of health promotion, and bringing forth strategies for health promotion in all regions of the world.

According to “Understanding of Factors that Enable Health Promoters in Implementing Health-Promoting Schools: A Systematic Review and Narrative Synthesis of Qualitative Evidence” a study conducted by Hung et al. (2014) showed that health promoters were significantly influential in improving the health of students in school. By targeting schools, the health promoters were able to sensitize students on the best practices such as hand washing, fruit and vegetable cleaning and other useful practices that are useful in preventing them from catching diseases and illnesses. Schools are better placed to successfully implement HPS by having health promoters conduct the necessary research on the best intervention strategies and implementing them on the group, in this case, the school. Implementation of HPS in school, as well as other populations, is influenced by health promoters’ ability to practice and advocate for health promotion and also changing of the political, historical and even cultural spheres.

On the other hand, empowerment by the health promoters is often achieved since they understand three crucial elements. These three critical principles are that they understand the problems that people deem important. Secondly, they involve the public in participation, problem-solving and also in decision-making processes. Lastly, public health policies have been instrumental in helping health promoters work effectively and in harmony with the public (Kumar and Preetha, 2012). Health promotions is an empowerment process, and health promoters are the drivers for this vehicle. Empowerment by health promotion professionals has major positive implications on individuals’ and community health. Also, working together with the public has shown to be more effective since the health concerns communicated by individuals and groups are valid in their right, and a shift from assuming that only the professionals are best placed to make decisions and implement policies has also helped in the empowerment process (Michie, 2016). Thinking of the public as only recipients of these strategies and not active participants in the process is a hindrance that these health promoters have overcome.

While empowerment can be perceived as the means that people attain power to have the ability to increase control over the factors that affect their health. A sense of empowerment is, therefore, bestowed by the attainment of knowledge on the people by health promoters. To this end, health promoters are experts who have been equipped with the required knowledge on teaching and implementing strategies useful or the society they are operating in and thus improving their health ((Vamos et al., 2016). The way that the concept works is by having the health practitioners and health promotion professional give access to information and provide a platform where they work together with the society and thus make empowerment possible.

The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion

World Health Organization defines overweight and obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health to a child or an adult. Obesity in children in London boroughs is a major concern and the Ottawa charter is useful in helping the solve obesity in children in London boroughs. According to the Ottawa Charter, there are five critical action strategies, and they are to build a healthy public policy, creation of a supportive environment, to strengthen community action, to develop personal skills and lastly to orient health services (OttawaCharter, 1987). These elements have helped advance and change the setting from a rather traditional point of view when it comes to health intervention. Additionally, some of the prerequisites of health in the charter include education, shelter, social justice, suitable resources, income, sustainable resources, stable ecosystem, food and also equity (OttawaCharter, 1987). The possession of these elements not only improves the health but also secures it. Conversely, the charter also recognizes that good health in a population such as reduction of obesity is a major boost for the economy as well as the social and personal development. The quality of life is closely influenced by the accessibility to good health, and these are achievable through the use of health promoters.

In particular, the Ottawa charter principles can be applied to obesity in children in the London boroughs by the health promoters by identifying the action areas and then developing a plan for implementation by the households with the help of health promoters such as nurses that visit community to raise awareness and also weight and also do routine checks of both blood sugar levels and blood pressure. The first action area has to be the development of personal skills such as incorporating healthy eating practices in households. Another action area that can be integrated by health promoters into communities to help fight obesity is by strengthening community action. For example, getting the community encourage each other through participating in physical activities together such as sports day or engaging in physical activity as a group (Firman et al., 2018). These activities can be done in the London boroughs or other geographical locations that have a high obesity prevalence. Action four of the Ottawa Charter advocates for the creation of supportive environment which can be met by having communities demand for less energy dense and healthier options. Using these action areas, the health issue can be managed with success.

Equity in health is one of the primary focus for health promoters, and the reduction of any existing difference in health status in a population is significant for health promoters. To help people achieve their highest health potential, equal opportunities are extended to populations, which includes the provision of a supportive environment, access to information, opportunities and even life skills. Since people cannot achieve their optimum health if they fail to control these factors health promoters empower them by equipping them with necessary information on the best ways to go about it. However, it is important to know that health promotion stresses the need for coordination of different arms like the voluntary organizations, governments, non-governmental organizations, the media, local authorities and also industries.

All people in their differentiated capacities are involved as communities, families and as individuals. The responsibility is not only on the health promoters but also on the social groups and professional groups that act as mediators between various interests expressed by the population in society in their pursuance of health (Tountas, 2015). It is evident that the health promotion interventions are changed and made to fit those of the people they are meant to serve and made adaptable for the people in that society. This step is important because different regions are governed by different social and cultural factors and also face differentiated health issues.

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Conclusion

Health promotion is a concept that remains relevant in a fast-changing world. The continued understanding that health is impacted by other factors that are sometimes outside the control of the health system leads to continued improvement of health promotion efforts and inevitably health promoters. Some of the highlighted factors include poverty, socioeconomic conditions, food, cultural and social fabrics and even the environment. The adoption of a holistic approach is then advocated, and this is made possible with the help of health promoters. Overall, health promoters are equipped to deal and play the role of empowerment in societies since they have undergone not only training and development of skills but also by involving the public in problem-solving and decision making. Additionally, based on the problem that most of the London boroughs are facing when it comes to obesity in children .Creation of healthy public policies and also the Ottawa Charter helps in promoting health and encompassing the actions by health promoters and the community. Health promoters are able to empower society and bring about positive health outcomes by applying their expert knowledge.

Bibliography

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