As the world continues to face new health challenges, improving health and health equity remains critical. Health equity is the principle of giving every individual an equal opportunity to achieve optimal health, regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or other factors that may contribute to health disparities.
Public health professionals have a critical role to play in improving health equity, and it starts with understanding what it is and taking actionable steps toward making a difference.
In this article, we will explore some ways to improve health and health equity.
1. Improve Education Access and Quality
It’s a crucial step in promoting health equity and improving outcomes. Education is linked to better health outcomes in many ways. Individuals with higher levels of education tend to have better-paying jobs which can provide access to better healthcare and engage in healthy behaviors, such as exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.
But education isn’t just about individual health outcomes; it also has a broader impact on the health of our communities. Education can help individuals develop critical thinking skills, leading to more informed decision-making about health behaviors and healthcare utilization. It can also help individuals understand and navigate complex healthcare systems, leading to better health outcomes for themselves and their families.
To make this vision a reality, public health professionals must also invest in their education and training. Masters of public health online programs are critical in preparing professionals to improve health education and quality. Graduates of these programs are equipped with the knowledge and skills to design and implement effective public health campaigns and initiatives to promote preventive health measures.
Public health professionals can work with schools, communities, and healthcare organizations to develop and implement health education programs that raise awareness about the importance of regular check-ups, screenings, exercise, and a healthy diet.
2. Address Social Determinants of Health
Social determinants of health refer to the conditions in which people are born, live, and work. These factors can have a significant impact on an individual’s health outcomes. For example, impoverished individuals may not have access to healthy foods, safe housing, or safe neighborhoods.
Addressing social determinants of health can help reduce health disparities and improve overall health outcomes. This can be achieved through policies such as improving access to affordable housing, increasing the minimum wage, and improving access to healthy foods.
3. Invest in Public Health Infrastructure
Investing in public health infrastructure is crucial in improving health outcomes and promoting health equity. Public health infrastructure includes the systems and resources that support the prevention and control of disease, injury, and disability. It includes disease surveillance systems, public health laboratories, and emergency preparedness and response capabilities.
By investing in public health infrastructure, we can better identify and respond to public health threats, such as infectious disease outbreaks, environmental hazards, and natural disasters. It also allows us to understand better and deal with the social determinants of health, such as housing, poverty, and education, which can profoundly impact health outcomes.
In addition, investing in public health infrastructure can help reduce healthcare costs in the long run by preventing and managing chronic diseases and reducing the need for emergency medical services.
4. Improve Health Care Access and Quality
Healthcare access and quality are essential components of a healthier society. Access to healthcare is key for individuals to stay healthy, prevent illness, and get the care they need when they need it. But access to high-quality healthcare is just as important, as it ensures that individuals receive safe and effective care.
There are many ways that individuals and communities can work together to improve healthcare access and quality, such as increasing the availability of health insurance, expanding telemedicine services, and improving the coordination of care between providers.
Moreover, increasing access to preventive care services can help reduce health disparities. Those with less education and lower incomes are more likely to be uninsured and have poorer health outcomes.
However, improving healthcare access and quality is not just about providing individuals with better care but also about creating healthier communities. Improving healthcare access and quality can create more equitable health outcomes and reduce the social and economic disparities contributing to poorer health.
5. Address the Opioid and Substance Use Epidemic
The opioid and substance use epidemic has had a devastating impact on our communities, with many individuals facing addiction without access to the care they need. We must take a comprehensive approach to address this issue, including prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
Prevention efforts should focus on educating individuals about the dangers of opioid and substance use and reducing access to drugs. It could involve providing more resources for drug education in schools, implementing evidence-based prevention programs, and increasing access to mental healthcare services.
For individuals already suffering from addiction, treatment should be accessible and provided in a safe and supportive environment. It could include expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, creating more recovery housing options, and increasing access to peer support services.
6. Invest in Environmental Justice and Mitigate Climate Change
One of the most significant hazards to human health and well-being is the impact of climate change. It affects individuals and communities worldwide, leading to increases in extreme weather events, changes in disease patterns, and food insecurity.
To mitigate its effects, we must take a comprehensive approach that involves increasing access to renewable energy sources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and investing in climate resilience and adaptation.
Furthermore, we must ensure that our approach is equitable and recognizes the disproportionate burden of climate change on low-income communities. It could involve investing in green infrastructure, providing economic opportunities for those affected by climate change, and increasing access to environmental health services.
As we enter a new era of healthcare, we must remember the importance of personal responsibility in improving our health and well-being. While policymakers and healthcare professionals can do much to bring about greater equity in access to and quality healthcare, each individual ultimately has the power to control their physical and mental health.
It’s only together, as individuals and as a community, that we can truly build a healthcare system that both thrives and is centered around educating people that small changes make great differences in collective well-being.