The World Health Organisation describes health promotion as "...the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. To reach a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, an individual or group must be able to identify and to realise aspirations, to satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment..."
The Ottawa Charter identifies three basic strategies for health promotion: advocate, enable, meditate. These strategies are supported by five priority action areas; build healthy public policy, create supportive environments for health, strengthen community action for health, develop personal skills, and re-orient health services.
Australia’s rural regions reflect the variety of Australian life. Despite this variation and some of the perceived advantages of living in a rural area (clean air, less traffic, more relaxed lifestyle), those who live in rural and remote areas generally have poorer health than those living in major cities, this is reflected in higher levels of mortality, disease and health risk factors. Medical services in rural and remote Australia are not as accessible as those in cities and people in these areas are exposed to different health risks.
This is why it is important to have an Area Health Promotion Unit in place in rural communities like the one in the case study. It helps identify priority areas for health in the area and therefore giving more individual a chance to be educated in preventing morbidity and mortality.
The identification of priority areas in health is determined by many different of methods. Studying trends in epidemiological measurements such as mortality and morbidity is part of the decision process. Other considerations need to be taken into account.
And they are:
Social Justice principle
Social justice means that the rights of all people in a community are dealt with fairly and equally. While equal opportunity targets everyone in the community, social justice targets the marginalised groups in our society - it focuses on the disadvantaged.
Priority population groups
Priority population groups are groups who have higher rates of morbidity and mortality rates of particular conditions. These include Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders who have higher rates of CVD, Cancer and Diabetes and a much lower life expectancy than other Australians.
Prevalence of the condition
Prevalence refers to the number of current cases of a disease or condition. Epidemiological data can be used to determine what diseases and conditions are most prevalent, which are improving or declining and can be used to determine funding priorities.
Potential for change The potential for change is considered when determining priority areas. By allocating resources to focus on a particular disease there needs to be the potential to minimise the extent of that illness. Eg: for cancer if we can get people to stop smoking we can have a big impact on the extent of cancer. This therefore has potential for change.
Costs to Individuals & community
The cost to the individual refers to the physical (pain, discomfort, immobilisation), social (loss of social contact, increased dependance on others, loss of confidence), emotional (stress, depression, mental anguish) and spiritual cost (loss of meaning in life).
If these considerations are taken into account along with the the studies trends of epidemiology when creating an Area Health Promotion Unit, it is possible to identify the priority areas for health.
Measuring population health in a category based way is difficult. Data therefore varies as to the exact extent and characteristics of the rural–urban health differential.
Some clear trends are obvious. E.g, people in rural areas do not often live as long as those living In urban areas.