Health Care Initiatives: Economic growth, a healthy environment and good public health are all connected
The health pressures we see in society today, can be tackled through informed investment in health care initiatives. Social-justice and poverty-alleviation policies must include efforts to combat illness, disease and injuries.
The Marmot Review, published in 2010 for the English Secretary of State for Health, reviews the most effective evidence-based strategies for reducing health inequalities. The review proposes the following objectives for implementation of health care initiatives;
- Give every child the best possible start in life;
- Enable children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives;
- Create fair employment and good work for all;
- Ensure a healthy standard of living for all;
- Create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities; and
- Strengthen the role and impact of ill health prevention.
Health care initiatives around the world display evidence of networked communities, learning from one-and-other, as well as reflective health care initiatives which meet specific regional needs.
Promoting and supporting healthy lifestyles
Health care initiatives which focus on promotion and support for more healthy lifestyles are, globally a key focus area. Government health departments are engaging in initiatives to act as ‘care-givers’, not only the ‘curers’.
Initiatives around the world include the example of the Finnish Baby Box / Maternity Package. This benefit (of essential baby related items) is offered to all newly expectant mothers and includes a box and mattress which can be the baby’s first cot. The scheme was developed to help give all newborns an equal start in life, regardless of socio-economic background. Mothers are required to inform local authorities about their pregnancy and visit their local maternity clinic, in order to qualify for the benefit. This enticement leads to immediate exposure to and awareness of maternity healthcare.
Another example is the Jom Mama initiative, meaning “Let’s do it, Mama!” in Malay, funded by private company Novo Nordisk, the initiative has the objective of introducing and implementing pre-pregnancy and prenatal assessments and interventions for couples, to improve the health of potential and future childbearing women, thus reducing the incidence of Type 2 diabetes in the population.
A health care initiative to encourage lifestyle changes and treat ill health through less resource intensive instruction (such as medicines), can be clearly seen in an example from Sweden. ‘Physical Activity on Prescription’ promotes physical activity amongst adults visiting health care centers with particular ailments. This program encourages health providers to actively prescribe ‘exercise and increased physical activity’, to those who would benefit from said activity.
Employee well-being programs
Such health care initiatives minimise health inequalities and optimise partnership and spread of responsibility. Health providers and businesses are recognising the value of employers “getting involved” in their employees’ health and well-being. For example, the government health care initiative ‘Healthy at Work’, in New South Wales, Australia, is based online and has links with doctors and organizations such as the ‘Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service’, the ‘Alcohol and Drug Information Service’, and the ‘NSW Quitline’ (for smoking).
A focus on school-aged youth
Health care initiatives with a focus on youth, represents a key area of focus for many countries. In New York State, the ‘Eat Well Play Hard’ (EWPH) health care initiative is a statewide childhood obesity prevention initiative, developed to promote targeted dietary practices and increased levels of physical exercise amongst youth through communication with schools. The core aims of this initiative are to increase;
- physical activity (and decrease time watching TV and on the computer);
- consumption of fresh vegetables and fruit;
- consumption of low-fat milk for children over age two; and
- the initiation and duration of exclusive breastfeeding.
A final example is the Health-Promoting Schools Initiative (HPSI) in Oman. This initiative aims to promote partnerships, creating a network of health-conscious schools and developing collaboration in the local community. The model (based on WHO guidelines) provides and promotes psychological support, skills-based health education, better school nutrition, physical education, and encouragement to school staff to set an example to the students.
A healthy population is both a result of sustainable development and a way to secure continued sustainability. Globally, health care initiatives are underway, aiming to address health inequalities and improve health and well-being overall. The more we learn from other parts of the world, the more each system can gain and continue on the sustainable healthcare journey.