Intro | Service | Activist | Advocacy | Books | Essays | Quotes | Events | Internships | Opinion-Makers | History
Being healthy is not absolutely necessary. Many people with chronic illnesses and disabilities live full and meaningful lives. But virtually everyone wants to maximize his or her health. Being healthy makes life easier and generally enables people to be more effective, whatever their goal. For most people, health is primary. It is their top priority. At the beginning of life, the parents' prime concern is the physical health of the infant. So this catalog begins with a chapter on Health.
Health is a community responsibility. Most people are instinctively concerned when they witness preventable pain or discomfort. This concern compels us to stand on the side of those who are unhealthy and to do what we can to relieve their suffering.
Born in Germany in the 1840s, the public health movement quickly spread to the United States and led to major advances in health care by the late 19th century. Buttressed in the 1860s by scientific discoveries concerning the connection between germs and disease, activists demanded and achieved governmental action to reduce epidemics by improving sanitation.
A major focus was on the creation of public water districts to provide clean water. Private property owners protested the seizure of land through eminent domain and the scope of the problem required state and regional bodies to overrule strict local control. But clean water and the disposal of waste steadily became accepted as a social responsibility. The first water filtration plant to purify water was built in 1871. Public water districts were soon established in cities throughout the country.
Within a year of the founding of the American Public Health Association in 1972, the number of local health commissions increased from 4 to 123. Since then, APHA has been a major force advocating action to promote public health.
Whereas traditional health care emphasizes treatment to help sick people get better, the public health movement has concentrated on “health promotion” to prevent disease and encourage healthy behaviors. This approach involves close attention to social, political, and economic factors in the causation of illness.
Some of the achievements of this movement include: 1910s – Passing legislation to require that milk be pasteurized. 1950s – Distributing a polio vaccine worldwide. 1980s – Enacting strict seatbelt laws. 1990s – Government anti-smoking campaigns lower smoking rates considerably.
In recent decades, many progressive health activists have promoted a holistic understanding of health. When the impact of germs is overwhelming, as in epidemics, the germ theory of disease prevails. But daily life is usually more complicated, with many factors interacting and influencing one another in complicated ways. Especially as we learn more about how the mind and body affect one another, the notion that illness is always simple cause-and-effect is being questioned. Stress, for example, can clearly contribute to illness, while illness can cause stress. Holistic medicine aims to understand these inter-relationships. Traditional Western medicine still plays a valuable role in health care, but fortunately it is evolving by incorporating alternative/naturopathic/holistic approaches to good health.
A holistic approach to health requires individual empowerment. The notion that one should always simply follow doctors’ orders is fading. Instead, society is increasingly affirming the patient’s right to be adequately informed and make his or her own health-care decisions. This personal responsibility involves the necessity of adopting healthy life-style habits, including careful attention to nutrition and exercise.
ensures that all of us have the continuing opportunity to age with self esteem and dignity, and to enjoy the maximum number of years in active health. It ensures the integration of adult services within our communities, as well as the emergence of new programs that empower elders to be socially and civically engaged and to mentor younger generations. Older adults are still learning, still growing, still full of promise and potential; and further, that aging ought to be recognized and experienced as a positive time in life, as an opportunity to enhance personal wisdom, and to enrich our communities with accumulated knowledge and experience.
Healthy individuals also require healthy communities, if only because an unhealthy environment causes illness in ways that individuals often cannot prevent. No individual can flourish for long in complete isolation. All people need support, assistance, attention, and compassion, in different ways at different times. Strong support from others can enable individuals to reduce stress and strengthen their immune system. So it is not surprising that the Google Health Directory includes listings to hundreds of support groups for people with a wide variety of illness. And at times, with certain people with certain diseases, religious faith can help heal illness. And even if they don’t help cure disease, support and faith can help people deal with the consequences of their illness.
So in this chapter that focuses on physical health, we have entries that deal with environmental, community, and political issues.
The chapter is divided into two categories: General and Specific. The General category deals with the whole range of general health issues. The Specific category deals with a number or pressing, specific health issues.
The General category includes listings under the following sub-categories:
- Service Organizations include resources that empower people by enabling them to become better informed about health issues so that they can take charge of their health. This section incorporates a special emphasis on alternative and holistic approaches that are not yet accepted as a regular component of traditional medical care.
- Activist Organizations includes national organizations that mobilize people to demand change in public policy related to health care issues, such as AIDS, national health insurance, reproductive choice, and food and drug safety.
- Advocacy Organizations include national organizations that engage in research and public education on general health care issues, as well as specific issues such as ethics, drug policy, health promotion, and caregiving.
- Books includes references to some seminal and timely publications on self-care, the history of modern medicine, and the need for national health insurance.
- CurrentEvents includes information about national events of potential interest to Americans concerned about health issues.
- Opinion-Makers includes profiles and references to key figures who have played major roles in the advance of public health.
- Historical Moments includes information about significant events that have moved forward improvements in public health.
- Quotes includes some notable quotations on health-related issues.
The Specific category includes resources that deal with a number of pressing specific health issues. Each listing on the Specific pages are preceded by (ACT), (ADV), or (SER) to indicate whether they are primarily an activist, advocacy, or service organization.
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