Everyone knows that physical health is essential to overall wellness. However, not everyone has the access or know-how to improve their physical health. Health promotion programs and services are one major method employed by public health officials to help address this issue. The Health Promotion Glossary defines health promotion as “the process of enabling people to increase control over and to improve their health.” In other words, health promotion empowers people to become healthier.
To suit the needs of many communities and populations, health promotion efforts take many forms. These programs can include promoting physical fitness, education about child and family nutrition, breastfeeding and postnatal healthcare awareness and much more. While these programs can differ in subject matter, creating health promotion programs is based on a shared collection of core practices. A sound creation process and evaluation method are crucial to having effective health promotion programs.
An advanced degree in public health can equip professionals with the necessary knowledge to implement public health programs using several approaches. Here’s a look at some common elements that go into cultivating effective, sustainable health promotion efforts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends assessing the unique situation that you’re trying to address. This means “gathering information about the factors that support and/or hinder the health” of the people you will be promoting to, allowing you to get an idea of individuals’ current health status and better identify areas and opportunities to improve. Assessments are an important first step before making further plans.
The next step, of course, is planning. The CDC outlines several key components that anyone creating a health promotion program should consider. Individuals planning the program should be able to make the most of the data collected during the assessment portion and cultivate activities and approaches accordingly. One way to do this is to build on existing resources within a community.
Getting the word out about health programs is also crucial. People must be aware of their availability to take advantage of them. Program planners can also improve the accessibility of their programs by creating as many opportunities for the community to get involved as possible. The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) points out that this consideration should include accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Choosing a location close to public transit and other key accessibility considerations helps make health promotion programs more inclusive.
The implementation process is when the plan is put into action and includes several facets. Planners need to be aware of personnel and staffing decisions, have adequate resources and facilities and enact policies, procedures and structure for the program.
After the initial implementation process, effective health promotion programs learn to adjust their approaches as necessary over time. The evaluation process often informs these adjustments.
To be effective over time, health promotion programs need to have sound evaluation criteria and methodology. According to the CDC, effective evaluations “systematically [examine] the implementation and results of strategies and interventions with the aim of using findings to improve those actions.”
Program professionals should be careful in evaluating the program’s implementation and effectiveness. If positive results are not occurring, it often indicates an issue in both parts of the process, and it’s worth taking a look at the whole. Those building health promotion programs need to balance these considerations to cultivate effective programs and serve different populations.
The Southern Oregon University (SOU) Master of Science in Education (MSEd.) with a Concentration in Public Health Education online program prepares graduates to pursue various careers and design differentiated health promotion programs based upon a variety of factors that contribute to population health. Coursework includes a variety of required and concentration courses, including Health Education and Promotion. Students learn about the various systemic and environmental factors that affect health in the U.S., as well as chronic and infectious diseases. With this knowledge, graduates can be public health educators and create health promotion programs to help mitigate these factors and improve physical health.