Developing Community and Public Health Capacity for Change

March Health Awareness Campaigns

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Brain Injury Awareness Month
National Kidney Cancer Awareness Month
Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month
National Myeloma Awareness Month
National Nutrition Month
National Endometriosis Month
Workplace Eye Wellness Month
National Save Your Vision Month
Hemophilia Month
National Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Month
American Red Cross Month
Learning Disabilities Awareness Month
National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
National Eye Donor Month
National Poison Prevention Month
National Professional Social Work Month
Save Your Vision Month

For those in community or public health, the topics in this article will be nothing new-but as busy professionals ourselves, we often find it helpful to be reminded of the basic premises of our chosen fields. It’s so easy in our hectic-and very important-drive to complete work tasks that we lose sight of those core values for which we strive.

There are a growing number of evidence-based interventions for use by community and public health professionals to promote health and prevent disease. [Leeman, Calancie, et al: 2015] These practices have the potential to improve environments, behaviors, and health outcomes in our communities. In order to adopt these practices, however, public health agencies and community partners often need additional tools, strategies, and training to enhance their capacity to improve health outcomes.

The most effective prevention strategies actively engage the communities they are intended to serve. Effective health promotion and health-enhancing social change require communities to identify, plan, channel resources, and take action. The concept that a community is the solution to its own problems is not new. There is considerable support for designing community-based interventions to improve the health behaviors and overall health status of community members. According to Sotomayor, Pawlik, and Dominguez in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, “These community-based interventions are important because health disparities and the high rate of chronic diseases in minority populations, particularly among those who are poor and lack access to community resources, are not likely to be prevented without them.” [Sotomayor, Pawlik, and Dominguez: 2007]

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s Healthy People 2020 strives to

Identify nationwide health improvement priorities.
Increase public awareness and understanding of the determinants of health, disease, and disability and the opportunities for progress.
Provide measurable objectives and goals that are applicable at the national, State, and local levels.
Engage multiple sectors to take actions to strengthen policies and improve practices that are driven by the best available evidence and knowledge.
Identify critical research, evaluation, and data collection needs.

Many health prevention and promotion consultants stress the importance that local leaders play in building community health. The Healthy People 2020 toolkit Identifying & Engaging Community Partners, answers the question “How Do You Define Meaningful Citizen Participation?” in this way:

Power to make decisions and affect outcomes
Citizen driven; from the community up, not top down
Proactive, not reactive
Encourages and facilitates broad community involvement
Inclusive, not exclusive; accessible to all
Balanced representation in the participation process; not just major “partners”
Consensus-oriented decision making Compromise; give and take
Opportunities for involvement in all levels of activity, which include creating a vision, planning, prioritizing, deciding, evaluating [ODPHP: 2010]

Building strong relationships with necessary community partners can be time consuming. Facilitating meetings to allow the meaningful participation outlined above requires a particular, practiced set of skills. Here’s where a community health consultant could be extremely valuable. Each community health consultant is different, of course, but in general he or she will have significant experience with the following tasks:

Developing health education and promotion programs, such as school or community presentations, workshops, trainings, etc.
Writing and formatting health education materials, such as reports, bulletins, and visual aids, to address public health concerns.
Developing working relationships with agencies and organizations interested in public health.
Designing and conducting evaluations to assess the quality and performance of health communication and education programs.
Collaborating with community groups and public health officials to identify community health needs and the availability of services needed.
Writing press releases and public service announcements, conducting media campaigns, or maintaining program-related Web sites.
Developing grant proposals to obtain funding for health education programs and related work.

How You Can Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is produced when your skin is exposed to the sun. It can also be found in some foods and it is notorious for helping the body to absorb calcium from foods in order to maintain healthy bone cells. It also sustains muscle health, boosts cell growth, curtail inflammation, enhances immune system and regulates blood pressure.

Vitamin D deficiency is caused when your serum vitamin D level is below 20 nanograms/millimeter (ng/ml). It can also occur when there is an insufficiency of the vitamin in your diet or your body cannot absorb and metabolize the ones you consume.

Furthermore, if you live in a place with a high latitude, you may be at more risk of vitamin D deficiency because you may have less access to the sun’s ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. Staying too much indoors is also a contributing factor and if you live in a highly-polluted territory, you may have a lesser access to sun’s rays. The use of excessive sunscreen on your skin to block UV rays may also be a contributory factor while those with darker skin types need more exposure.

It is unsafe to self-diagnose a vitamin D deficiency because its symptoms are similar to many other ailments. Hence, it is very important to conduct a laboratory test in order to establish the ailment. However, some symptoms that may be noticed are weak bones, depression, chronic pain, rising blood pressure, exhaustion even with adequate sleep, unexplained infertility, weakness of the muscle, just to mention a few.

Boosting your vitamin D levels is as easy as ABC. You can take over-the-counter supplements or multivatimin preparations, while the consumption of foods like salmon, tuna, cheese, liver, egg yolk, milk, cereals, etc., is advisable. It is very important to expose your skin to sunlight and if you have a history of skin cancer or you have a very pale skin, you should speak with a medical professional to know whether you are fit for sun exposure.

Moreover, you should consider maintaining a healthy body weight and get involved in an outdoor exercise every day. Those with liver, kidney or gut problems should monitor their medical condition properly and get the necessary treatment. Infants who are being breast-fed may not get enough vitamin D since they may not be exposed to sunlight, hence, they can be given supplements in order to make up for this.