Prevention and Health Promotion

Prevention and Health Promotion

Marissa Wicker, BA, Director

Prevention and Health Promotion programs focus on keeping people healthy. Health Promotion engages and empowers individuals and communities to engage in healthy behaviors and make changes that reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and other morbidities. Defined by the World Health Organization, health promotion is:

“The process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behavior towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions.”

Disease prevention is understood as specific, population-based and individual-based interventions for primary and secondary (early detection) prevention, aiming to minimize the burden of diseases and associated risk factors. Disease prevention focuses on strategies to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and other morbidities.

Unintentional and violence-related injuries cause nearly 180,000 deaths each year, and are the leading cause of death for people age 1 to 44. In addition, millions of people are treated in emergency rooms or hospitalized due to injuries each year. With physical and economic consequences, each year’s injuries lead to estimated lifetime costs of $406 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity.

Injury and disease cross all boundaries and can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, race or socioeconomic background. While injury and disease have a significant burden, they are also largely preventable. Recognizing the social and economic burden of injury and disease is critical to determine the appropriate level of intervention and investment into prevention activities.

Prevention and Health Promotion programs often address social determinants of health, which influence modifiable risk behaviors. Social determinants of health are the economic, social, cultural, and political conditions, in which people are born, grow and live that affect health status. Modifiable risk behaviors include, for example, tobacco use, prior eating habits, and lack of physical activity, which contribute to the development of chronic disease. Typical activities for health promotion and prevention programs include:

  • Communication: Raising awareness about healthy behaviors for the general public. Examples of communication strategies include public service announcements, health fairs, mass media campaigns, and newsletters.
  • Education: Empowering behavior change and actions through increased knowledge. Examples of education strategies include courses, training, and support groups.
  • Policy: Regulating or mandating activities by organizations or public agencies that encourage healthy decision-making.
  • Environment: Changing structures or environments to make healthy decisions more readily available to large populations.