What is Health Promotion?
Have you ever picked up an American Heart Association pamphlet at the grocery store on cholesterol or attended a lecture at your local hospital on controlling blood pressure? These are both elements of a health promotion program, a program meant to inform and persuade people to make choices that contribute to better health. Health promotion focuses on improving the quality of people's lives, not just by increasing their chances of living longer or without serious disease, but also by getting them to feel better and be more active.
Health promotion activities can be divided into four levels:
- Level 1 - Awareness - Awareness involves attracting people's attention to ways they can improve their own health, such as exercising more or smoking less. It could be a pamphlet in the literature rack or a poster on the bulletin board.
- Level 2 - Education - Education gives people more concrete steps to take in order to become healthier. It might include gathering a group to watch a health-related video or bringing in a health professional to check blood pressures.
- Level 3 - Behavior change - Activities that focus on changing behavior help people actually carry out improvements in their lifestyles. Examples of such activities include forming a support group for those who want to quit smoking or awarding a T-shirt to those who exercise regularly for 6 weeks.
- Level 4 - Culture - A workplace that nurtures and supports healthy living contributes to an effective health promotion program. Providing vending machines with healthy foods, implementing a nonsmoking policy, or developing safety policies are ways to foster a healthy corporate culture.
For a health promotion program to succeed we believe it must meet three criteria:
- It's accurate - Misinformation won't help anyone, and it could discourage those who are eager to change.
- It's long-term - People wanting to permanently change their lives need time and support from others.
- It's non threatening - No one wants to be bullied into changing, and forced changes aren't likely to last long.
It's also important for the program to be attractively presented and well organized.