Public Health and Mental Health
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is “an entire state of total physical, emotional and social well being and not just the absence of illness and infirmity.” A wide variety of definitions have previously been used for different reasons. Today, health is a term that has applied to a large number of circumstances and events. It also covers the process by which an individual achieves health, and how this relates to life in general. A definition of health is an important concept in determining what is involved in a definition of health, as well as its application to human beings.
The need for developing new ways of evaluating health in America has become more pressing as the Baby Boom generation ages. The fact that life expectancy for American adults continues to decrease highlights the urgency for governmental investment in health policy. The lack of effective methods to evaluate health risks associated with behaviors that are associated with greater risk for a variety of diseases is a fundamental deficiency that affects all aspects of the healthcare system.
As defined health, old-age is associated with a group of diseases and health problems associated with old age. These diseases and conditions include chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and osteoporosis; mental disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, psychosis, and bipolar; and syndromes such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and anorexia nervosa. In addition, old age itself is also a substantial risk factor. Individuals who smoke cigarettes are twice as likely as those who do not to develop cancer or heart disease, while men are five times as likely as women to die from prostate cancer and lung cancer. While all of these conditions are associated with a growing aging population, their association with a lack of health coverage highlights the necessity for new ways to evaluate health risks.
While physical health is associated with wellness, mental health is also important in the formation of a healthy adult. A major gap in medical research has been the absence of a measure of mental health from measurements of overall health and disability. A large proportion of health problems and disabilities are caused by the interaction of the brain, the immune system, the digestive system, the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal system, the sensory organs, the emotional system, and the lifestyle. This means that a lack of any of these elements makes a person more likely to develop a health problem or a disability. Achieving full wellness requires an integration of all of these components.
The National Institute of Mental Health has identified a number of components that are associated with the development of mental health and the prevention of mental health disorders. Two of these components are family history and neighborhood environment. The prevalence of diseases such as attention deficit disorder and depression in a neighborhood is linked with the family history of these disorders. Likewise, the presence of physical hazards in a neighborhood increases the likelihood of a resident suffering from a disability related to those hazards. In other words, environments that are dangerous create conditions that facilitate the development of mental health disorders.
Public health approaches the prevention of diseases through education, marketing, regulation, and taxes. Prevention is better than cure. Public health and clinical trials are discovering new ways to target existing agents and prevent the occurrence of new diseases. These new ways focus on the prevention of conditions rather than their treatment.