In this essay I will be both describing and evaluating the different methods used to promote and protect public health in the U.K. The main aims of promoting and protecting public health are to improve the general health of the population and to reduce health inequalities within the U.K. The government is a key part of all of this as they have produced many official documents, papers, reports and legislations in order to enhance overall public health. One of these documents is the White Paper which focuses on making choices in terms of health easier; this can be read in my appendix 1. In order to reduce health inequalities the government brought out an action programme and set targets and goals that they wanted to be reached by 2010. Some of the targets for this plan include aspects like, reducing smoking in manual social groups, preventing teenage pregnancy and supporting teenage pregnancy, improving housing conditions for children in disadvantaged areas and many more.

I will now place the main methods of promoting and protecting public health into three categories; health promoting activities/health education, specific protection and environmental.

Health promoting activities/health education:

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Healthy eating campaigns-

This campaign was set up as a focus on nutrition, trying in many different ways to improve it so that obesity levels would decrease. This in turn would have an affect on the diseases linked with obesity and poor diets, like coronary heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. One of the main recommendations that we should all follow is to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in order to maintain a healthy diet and reduce the risk of us contracting any chronic diseases. Yet many of us are not doing this as the average consumption of fruit and vegetables a day is only three. It is important to understand that it is not only about eating the right things in order to keep healthy but we must also take part in regular activities and exercise too. The five a day (5 A DAY) programme set up by the government had two main aims in order to increase the amount of fruit and vegetable consumption, these were to:

* Raise awareness of the health benefits

* Improve access to fruit and vegetables through targeted action

The five a day (5 A DAY) programme have five main ways of aiming to achieve their targets, which are all underpinned by an evaluation and monitoring programme. These five ways include:

* National School Fruit Scheme

* Local 5 A DAY initiatives

* National/local partners-government health consumer groups

* Communications programme including 5 A DAY logo

* Work with industry, including producers’ caterers and retailers.

Therefore healthy eating campaigns are a good and effective way of promoting and protecting public health as they set guidelines for us all to follow and they make us more aware of how we can be healthy and provide us ways to do it. It makes us feel good as a community if we work together to improve our health.

Standards for school lunches-

The local government set up standards in order to improve school dinners and make them healthier for children. Something called The School Food Trust (SFT) was commissioned in 2005 to advise ministers on what sorts of foods children in schools should be eating. These standards apply to school lunches and any other food provided in local authority maintained schools in England. The two main standards for school lunches which have been set up to promote and protect public health through health in education are:

* Food based, which will define the types of food that young people and children should be offered in a school lunch and the frequency with which they are offered

* Nutrient based, which will set out the proportion of nutrients that young people and children should receive from a school lunch.

The government has also concluded that similar standards should apply to all the other food that is inhabited within schools in the U.K, this will mean:

* No confectionary will be sold in schools

* No bagged savory snacks other than nuts and seeds (without added salt or sugar) will be sold in schools

* A variety of fruit and vegetables should be available in all school food outlets (this could include fresh, dried, frozen, canned or juiced varieties)

* Children and young people must have easy access at all times to free, fresh drinking water in schools.

This is a very important method used to promote and protect public health as it is better to target the younger generation as they are like sponges and will soak up all the information about the foods they should be eating. By providing healthy lunches in schools it should lower the levels of obesity and therefore reduce the risks of people contracting chronic diseases linked to poor diet.

National No Smoking Day-

This method was first established in 1984 on Ash Wednesday. It was set up in order to encourage and help those who smoke and want to give up to stop smoking altogether. It aims to do this by setting up local groups to go through the process together and some places in England also give out free starter kits, which include patches and information as support. Since starting up this event over 1.2 million people have managed to give up smoking. There are now over 5000 registered campaigners all around the U.K which support national no smoking day. It is now considered one of the most successful and best awareness days within the U.K.

National no smoking day have proved to be a big success in terms of promoting and protecting public health as the percentage of adults who smoke has dropped nearly 10% since the campaign started. It also helps to protect those that don’t smoke as it reduces the amount of secondhand smokers and also dramatically reduces the risk of people falling ill with smoking related diseases like cancer.

Specific Protection

Immunisation-

Immunisation is all about protecting people from specific and harmful diseases that they may come into contact with during their life. We can now be made immune from many diseases. This is done by being injected with a weak version of a disease organism to stimulate your body into producing antibodies that will protect you from that particular disease; it all challenges our immune systems. This means that if you ever come into contact with the disease again in your life you will be able to fight it off as your immune system will quickly respond to it. Children are routinely immunized in the U.K for diphtheria, typhoid, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, etc. If a majority of the population is immunized against specific diseases it is called ‘herd immunity’. This means that in the likelihood of any epidemic is greatly reduced, and because of this the government sets immunisation targets for local health services to meet.

This is important in protecting and promoting public health as it can reduce your chances of falling severely ill and in the future it may mean that chronic diseases can be wiped out completely, just like smallpox has been.

Disease surveillance-

Key infections are under constant surveillance by scientific laboratories to detect any significant trends and evaluate methods to prevent any diseases and control them. This means that new or virulent strains can be identified. This means professionals and the HPA can be alerted of any threats that may breakout. Diseases currently being monitored are tuberculosis, some classes of food poisoning and some sexual transmitted infections.

Disease surveillance is effective in promoting and protecting public health as it raises awareness publicly so that people can also help themselves to stay protected. This is also important for the newer diseases like MRSA which a resistant to most antibiotics as it means new antibiotics and medicines can be created to treat people.

Screening-

This method can be defined as ‘the identification of unrecognized disease of defect by the application of tests, examinations and other procedures which can be applied rapidly’. The intention of screening is to identify disease in a community early, thus enabling earlier intervention and management in the hope to reduce mortality and suffering from a disease. Although screening may lead to an earlier diagnosis, not all screening tests have been shown to benefit the person being screened. There are many different types of screening methods used, and each is used to screen a different disease, like colonoscopy is used to detect colorectal cancers and mammography is used for breast cancer detection.

This is a vital method that we use to protect and promote health as it means that any problems can be detected early; even during pregnancy mothers’ unborn children can be screened. It is particularly important for those who have a family history of a specific disease.

Environmental

Waste disposal/treatment-

By having our waste removed from our homes, work places and all other places that produce waste products by the local council it means that we are reducing the risk of experiencing poor health. Waste encourages pests and other animals which can carry and spread all types of nasty diseases so it is important that our waste is disposed of safely. As the U.K produce one of the largest amounts of waste it is important that we recycle what we can in order to help our environment from getting spoilt. Recently there have been some significant improvements made by the government in terms of recycling targets for local authorities. Kerbside collections now offer the pick up of waste, paper, glass and plastics.

This method is vital for promoting and protecting public health as it reduces the risk of us contracting diseases and it also means that we can keep our environment protected from nasty smells and little strewn areas.

Supply of safe water-

The quality of our drinking water in the U.K is regulated by the government through something called the drinking water inspectorate (DWI) which was set up in 1990 after the water industry was privatized. They do routinely checks and technical audits to ensure that the water companies in England and Wales supply water that is safe to drink and meets the standards set in water quality regulations. It is important to make sure our water is not contaminated with microorganisms like viruses and bacteria, with inorganic contaminants like salts and metals and also organic chemical contaminants.

In terms of promoting and protecting public health having a decent water supply is vital as it means the risk of people falling ill from water related problems will continue to decrease. It also means that we are lucky as we have easy access to clean fresh water, unlike many countries do.

Pollution control-

The pollution prevention and control regulations were set up in 2000 to control pollution from certain industrial activities in England and Wales. This introduced the concept of the best available techniques to environmental regulations to do so. This means that all operators must use the best available techniques to prevent pollution when practicable. If this cannot be achieved, like on the roads for example pollution is aimed to be at an acceptable level. This applies to air, land and water pollution. Permits must be granted by the environmental agency in order for companies to create pollution filled conditions.

The control of pollution is vital in England to protect and promote public health as we have a lot of urban areas that are constantly in contact with all different type of pollution, and as you know pollution can affect a person’s health. People are now more aware than ever because of the eco-friendly cars that are available to us.

In evaluation there are many different methods of promoting and protecting public health and they are all important in their own ways. We must all work together as a community in order to protect ourselves from being of ill health by following the laws, reports and papers put before us. I hope that this means we will all have a good future in terms of health in that fatal diseases will be eradicated.

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