Importance of Health Education
The importance of health education not only effects many facets of health in a community, such as: Prevention and chronic disease education. Prevention is always better than cure. Maternity and infant health education. Violence and mental health education. Sexual health and rights. Gaps in preventative care and health services, especially for children and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals.
Health education takes into consideration the concerns that impact all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity or socio-economics. The intersections of these issues cause health disparities. Issues that affect the health education of one group may be an issue that affects another. Health education includes issues that affect people at the local level, such as: the health and wellness of neighborhoods; healthcare and social services delivery at the community level, such as after-school programs; crime and violence at the community level, such as low-income communities; and school districts. The need to implement policies to address health disparities at the community level is crucial in narrowing health education gaps.
Communities should take note that the best time to institute community health education initiatives is now. In fact, a recent study showed that health education can have a measurable impact on the wellness outcomes of pregnant women. This finding is noteworthy because smoking rates among pregnant women have been shown to be much higher than that of non-pregnant women. Also, tobacco use during pregnancy was shown to be a leading cause of death for infants. Both of these issues are important areas to address through community health education initiatives.
Community-wide efforts to address these issues are important to the future success of the nation. Smoking and tobacco use has been shown to reduce life expectancy by a minimum of five years. Health education can help reduce the number of premature deaths due to tobacco use alone. It is estimated that an additional one million deaths could be prevented if all Americans would quit smoking. This means averting a loss of nearly three thousand premature deaths through 2021. This translates to a return in community health education dollars that otherwise might have been spent on tobacco use and other unhealthy practices.
Beyond the direct financial costs of tobacco use, another major cost of tobacco use is lost productivity. Adults who smoke have less overall confidence in the job-related activities they perform. This directly impacts the economy as lower productivity reduces the rate of growth in the economy. Reduced growth also depresses tax revenues, meaning more money is put out of circulation. A reduction in investment in community health education reduces lost productivity and adds to the nation’s fiscal situation.
Not only does tobacco use slow the rate of economic growth, it is also tied to the general decrease in the quality of life. More people are turning to the health problems that come with tobacco use. The effects of this are visible not only in declining health outcomes but in increased instances of stress, depression and anxiety. All of which add to the national cost of health care.
Even after the costs of tobacco use are factored in, it is still the case that American citizens spend much less than people in other wealthy countries on health care. Health education has long been viewed as a relatively expendable form of public policy. In fact, there is now increasing evidence that the lack of information about the true benefits of improved health is leading to a significant delay in the adoption of new public health initiatives. Health education is not just about the avoidance of diseases that increase a person’s risk of developing other ailments; it also has social and economic value.
The importance of health education extends beyond the direct monetary cost of poor health and lost productivity. It also has an impact on attitudes towards the way people live, work and interact. It makes people more willing to make adjustments to their lifestyle to better suit the needs of their bodies and minds. Health education has certainly turned the tide in the direction of the nation’s health and well being.