The impact of technology on our lifestyle choices has had a negative impact on our health. We use cell phones to communicate instead of meeting each other physically and use cars to commute instead of walking or cycling. Children are spending more time on screens than playing in parks and exploring the wonders of nature.
Lack of physical activity in both children and adults has led to an increase in chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease and obesity. This has also caused a significant burden on the community healthcare systems.
It is the responsibility of public health professionals to create awareness about public health parameters in the community. Educating people about the importance of physical activity, adequate nutrition, and access to clean air and water are some of the ways a community can increase its collective health.
How can you work to improve health in your community?
It is human nature to want to serve your community. Social workers dedicate their lives to serving orphans and those in need. Healthcare workers can also give back to their community by joining organizations that work towards improving public health.
Public health professionals are qualified individuals who research and educate communities to improve their health. They include health workers, epidemiologists, researchers, community health physicians, and nurses. Many advanced degree programs in public health are available for you to pursue your passion as a public health practitioner. Even if you’re currently working and want to serve society simultaneously, you can pursue an MPH online program without resigning from your current job.
In this article, we will discuss four ways you can contribute to improving health in your community.
Promote Physical Activity
The CDC has reported that only 24% of children between the ages of 6 to 17 years of age participate in 60 minutes of physical activity every day. The WHO recommends that children of this age group perform at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity per day. It is also recommended to include aerobic activities three times a week.
WHO also recommends that adults perform a collective 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week. They should also dedicate two days a week to muscle-strengthening activities. Shockingly, more than 27% of adults do not meet these standards of physical activity.
It is your job as a public health practitioner to promote physical activity among all age groups. You can educate young parents in your community to include physical activity in their daily routines and become role models for their children. A leisurely stroll in the park every evening will meet your daily requirements of physical activity and allow families to spend time together.
You can also ask local municipalities to design pedestrian-friendly roads with separate bike lanes for people to commute to their workplaces and schools. Pedestrian-friendly routes to bus/train stops encourage people to make the short walk to the station instead of taking out the car to travel to and from work.
Health initiatives in schools
Schools are centers to educate the young minds of our communities, who will grow up to be future leaders. Hence, schools need to educate children about the importance of developing healthy habits.
As a public health enthusiast, you can hold child-friendly activity days and have interactive sessions to teach kids about the importance of hygiene practices, such as using sanitizers and washing their hands before and after every meal. You can also review and request your local community schools to take the children for field trips to local parks and forests. This will allow children to explore the different plants and animals and get them their required physical activity.
You can also conduct parent-toddler sessions and educate parents about the importance of vaccinations and the required nutrients for growing children. Public health professionals can also monitor the physical education programs being offered in schools and suggest improvements in the facilities available.
Create a community garden
Instead of hitting the gym, being active outdoors is an excellent mental health booster. A community garden can serve as a multi-purpose space for people in the community. You can have a playground for kids, a walking track for adults, a space for people to have open discussions and a dedicated area for planting fruits and vegetables native to the area.
Members of the community can use the garden for their benefit, as well as have access to fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the year. A community garden also encourages people to unwind and talk to their neighbors. It also allows the community to welcome new members and help them settle in the area.
Involve everyone in the community
Improving the health of the community is not a one-person job. It requires the participation of each member of the community and their willingness to adapt their life to make healthier choices.
Multiple organizations need to be involved for the betterment of the community. These include the Parks and Recreation Department, which is responsible for the creation and maintenance of playgrounds, sports fields, swimming pools, and gardens.
In 2020, the CDC reported that areas with high crime rates were associated with fewer park visits by people, affecting public health. Hence, the local security department also plays a crucial role in maintaining the safety and, indirectly, the health of a community. They need to be encouraged to provide security in parks and pools so that children and adults can enjoy their time outdoors without worrying about their safety.
The transportation sector should also be held accountable for maintaining pathways for walking and biking and improving access to public transport for older adults or those with mobility issues. Employers of various organizations can include incentives for memberships in local clubs as part of their contracts. This will encourage employees to join local tennis and squash clubs, improving their physical health and meeting other employees of the company.
Improving the health of the community will help reduce the burden of treating sick people in the healthcare system. Moreover, a career in public health is very rewarding, as it allows you to educate people for the betterment of their health, giving you the satisfaction that you’ve improved lives. You will eventually see the effects of the efforts you have made when you see healthy children playing in parks and energized adults having a good time outdoors. So, if you wish to play your part in helping to create a healthier community, start by enrolling in a public health degree program and consider following the tips above. Good Luck!