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Public Health and Social Determinants

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition “of full physical, mental and emotional well-being and not simply the absence of illness and infirmity.” A number of definitions have also been applied to the concept of health, but it is primarily the definition provided by WHO that is recognized as the definitive reference source Home depot health check. In the United States, the medical definition of health is the same as the federal government’s. It states that the term health is “exceedingly well adapted to the care of persons suffering from all types of physical disorders and the care of other animals.” The definition does not limit itself to age or gender. A person of any age or gender can be considered to be healthy.

As the population of the United States ages, the challenge to promote healthy living and maintain current standards of health care becomes more pressing. The aging process and the increased percentage of the population who are overweight or obese raises the need for modifications in the way services are delivered and providers are selected. A study completed by the Urban Institute found that most Americans did not have access to high quality, affordable health care services and did not view the health system as a priority. Low and moderate income individuals were particularly vulnerable to the lack of access to quality health services and providers.

An analysis of the current trends in the United States found that there are a number of mental health conditions that are increasing in prevalence while a number of common chronic conditions are decreasing. The rate of increase in serious mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression, has outpaced the decrease in the rate of decrease in many common chronic diseases. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, most children and adolescents in the United States live with a caregiver, such as a parent or sibling, who is either not well enough or not capable of providing needed assistance to maintain healthy life skills and behavioral patterns. These children and adolescents may suffer from physical illness, developmental disorders, and psychological disorders that can make it difficult for them to function in society. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, inadequate parental supervision and care has been identified as a major cause of the rise in teenage suicide rates.

A positive concept of social well-being has become associated with a decreased risk of major depression and anxiety disorders and a decreased likelihood of serious health complications such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and unintentional injuries. Adolescent girls now report higher self-esteem and better social outcomes than adolescent boys. Recent studies have linked negative childhood experiences with greater likelihood of adult obesity, poor health, substance abuse, and depression. Studies also suggest that early social and psychological interventions help children and adolescents gain coping skills and increased confidence to deal with stress and change for the better.

According to the American Psychological Association, emotional and mental health are closely intertwined. Being happy, calm, and in control of emotions helps promote healthy relationships and increases well-being. Youth that have early access to positive social connections have better odds of moving on to manage stress and health problems. Positive parenting practices such as taking an active role in family activities, getting children involved in community activities, and maintaining positive relationships have been associated with greater emotional well-being in children and adolescents. Similarly, attending parenting training classes such as those offered by The National Center for Families and Children at the University of Toronto have been shown to be beneficial in reducing the likelihood of the occurrence and severity of mental illness and other psychosocial problems.

Effective policies and programs must address the multiple determinants of health and wellness. These include sociocultural, biological, experiential, and environmental factors. Each of these domains has different implications for health and they are interdependent. Therefore, a successful strategy for public health must take all of these determinants into consideration. It is important that a public health program focus on all aspects of health in order to effectively provide solutions and prevent illness.