Health Maintenance and Protection

Health Maintenance and Protection

Health can be seen from many other viewpoints, and many areas of dis- agreement arise with respect to how health can be defined. The preparation of health care providers tends to organize their education from a perspective

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of illness. Rarely (or superficially) does it include an in-depth study of the concept of health. The emphasis in health care delivery has shifted from acute care to preventive care. The need for the provider of health services to comprehend this concept is therefore crucial. As this movement for pre- ventive health care continues to grow, to become firmly entrenched, and to thrive, multiple issues must be constantly addressed in answering the question “What is health?” Unless the provider is able to understand health from the viewpoint of the patient, a barrier of misunderstanding is perpetu- ated. It is difficult to reexamine complex definitions dutifully memorized at an earlier time, yet an understanding of health from a patient’s viewpoint is essential to the establishment of comprehensive primary health care ser- vices inclusive of health maintenance and protection services because, as has been discussed, the perception of health is a complex psychological process. There tends to be no established pattern in what individuals and families see as their health needs and how they go about practicing their own health care.

Health maintenance and protection or the prevention of illness are by no means new concepts. As long as human beings have existed, they have used a multitude of methods—ranging from magic and witchcraft to present-day immunization and lifestyle changes—in an ongoing effort to maintain good health and prevent debilitating illness and death. Logic suggests that in order to maintain health we must prevent disease, and that is best accomplished by complying with immunization schedules, enforced by school policies; eating balanced meals, including avoiding salt and cholesterol; exercising regularly; and seeing a nurse practitioner, physician, or other health care provider once a year for a checkup. The annual ritual of visiting a health care provider has been extensively promoted by the health care establishment and is viewed as effec- tive by numerous laypeople, primarily those who have access to these services. A provider’s statement of good health is often required by a person seeking employment or life insurance. Furthermore, the annual physical examination has been advertised as the key to good health. A “clean bill of health” is con- sidered essential for social, emotional, and even economic success. This clean bill of health is bestowed only by members of the health care profession. The general public has been conditioned to believe that health is guaranteed if a disease that may be developing is discovered early and treated with the ever- increasing varieties of modern medical technology. Although many people be- lieve in and practice the annual physical and screening for early detection of a disease, there are some—both within and outside the health care professions— who do not subscribe to it. Preventive medicine grew out of clinical practice associated either with welfare medicine or with industrial or occupational med- ical practice. The approach of preventive medicine and health maintenance is the focus of health care practice in the United States among many segments of the population at large. However, countless disparities in overall health, and in access and utilization of the health care delivery system, exist and these will become increasingly evident as we progress through this text.

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