Community health


Community health tends to focus on a defined geographical community. The health characteristics of a community are often examined using geographic information system (GIS) software and public health datasets. Some projects, such as InfoShare or GEOPROJ combine GIS with existing datasets, allowing the general public to examine the characteristics of any given community in participating countries.
Medical interventions that occur in communities can be classified as three categories: primary healthcare, secondary healthcare, and tertiary healthcare. Each category focuses on a different level and approach towards the community or population group. In the United States, community health is rooted within primary healthcare achievements. Primary healthcare programs aim to reduce risk factors and increase health promotion and prevention. Secondary healthcare is related to "hospital care" where acute care is administered in a hospital department setting. Tertiary healthcare refers to highly specialized care usually involving disease or disability management.
Primary prevention refers to the early avoidance and identification of risk factors that may lead to certain diseases and disabilities. Community focused efforts including immunizations, classroom teaching, and awareness campaigns are all good examples of how primary prevention techniques are utilized by communities to change certain health behaviors. Prevention programs, if carefully designed and drafted, can effectively prevent problems that children and adolescents face as they grow up. This finding also applies to all groups and classes of people. Prevention programs are one of the most effective tools health professionals can use to greatly impact individual, population, and community health.
Secondary prevention refers to improvements made in a patient's lifestyle or environment after the onset of disease or disability. This sort of prevention works to make life easier for the patient, since it's too late to prevent them from their current disease or disability. An example of secondary prevention is when those with occupational low back pain are provided with strategies to stop their health status from worsening; the prospects of secondary prevention may even hold more promise than primary prevention in this case.
Chronic diseases has been a growing phenomena within recent decades, affecting nearly 50% of adults within the US in 2012. Such diseases include asthma, arthritis, diabetes, and hypertension. While they are not directly life-threatening, they place a significant burden on daily lives, affecting quality of life for the individual, their families, and the communities they live in, both socially and financially. Chronic diseases are responsible for an estimated 70% of healthcare expenditures within the US, spending nearly $650 billion per year.
There has been a lot of debate regarding the effectiveness of these programs and how well they influence patient behavior and understanding their own health conditions. Some studies argue that self-management programs are effective in improving patient quality of life and decreasing healthcare expenditures and hospital visits. A 2001 study assessed health statuses through healthcare resource utilizations and self-management outcomes after 1 and 2 years to determine the effectiveness of chronic disease self-management programs. After analyzing 800 patients diagnosed with various types of chronic conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and arthritis, the study found that after the 2 years, there was a significant improvement in health status and fewer emergency department and physician visits (also significant after 1 year). They concluded that these low-cost self-management programs allowed for less healthcare utilization as well as an improvement in overall patient health. Another study in 2003 by the National Institute for Health Research analyzed a 7-week chronic disease self-management program in its cost-effectiveness and health efficacy within a population over 18 years of age experiencing one or more chronic diseases. They observed similar patterns, such as an improvement in health status, reduced number of visits to the emergency department and to physicians, shorter hospital visits. They also noticed that after measuring unit costs for both hospital stays ($1000) and emergency department visits ($100), the study found the overall savings after the self-management program resulted in nearly $489 per person. Lastly, a meta-analysis study in 2005 analyzed multiple chronic disease self-management programs focusing specifically on hypertension, osteoarthritis, and diabetes mellitus, comparing and contrasting different intervention groups. They concluded that self-management programs for both diabetes and hypertension produced clinically significant benefits to overall health.