Date: April 3rd, 2018
By: Gina Desiderio
During the first full week of April each year, APHA brings together communities across the United States to observe National Public Health Week as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving the nation. During each day of National Public Health Week, the focus will be on one public health topic that is critical to the future success in creating the healthiest nation. Get involved by becoming a partner, joining APHA’s 1 Billion Steps Challenge, or sharing these resources that will encourage people to engage all communities and all sectors in a conversation about the role all can play to put good health within everyone’s reach.
For Healthy Teen Network, #NPHW is always an opportunity to talk about health promotion and the social determinants of health, or what we call Youth 360°. How and where youth live, learn, and play matters, and understanding this is key to changing our future together. Health promotion is an approach that enables people to increase control over and improve their health, while also moving beyond a focus on individual behavior to a wide range of social and environmental interventions. We subscribe to the social-ecological model; this model is a theory-based framework that demonstrates that behavior is the result of knowledge, values, and attitudes, as well as social influences, including the family, peers, and other people with whom we associate and the schools, communities, and larger society in which we belong. A health promotion approach will best foster the positive development of all young people and ensure that they are supported and empowered to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
Adolescence is an important time of developmental transition, when adolescents and young adults may be more sensitive to the environmental influences around them, in their relationships, communities, and society. A health promotion approach that incorporates the social-ecological model, or Youth 360°, considers the social determinants of health and moves beyond merely risk reduction or disease prevention to holistic wellness.
Access to health knowledge and services are critical to achieve health outcomes …however, they are not sufficient to achieve better outcomes for all young people. Every one of us is affected by social determinants of health at an individual level, but also through our relationships, in our communities, and in society as a whole. Beyond knowledge, we must consider, for example, the power of caregiver-child communication, or access to safe housing, or institutionalized racism if we want to increase our impact, particularly in the face of increasing health disparities. For example, positive caregiver-child communication and connectedness can protect adolescents and young adults from engaging in risk-taking behaviors. Academic success and achievement are strong predictors of overall health outcomes, and young people with proficient academic skills experience higher rates of healthy behaviors. And, adolescents and young adults who live in neighborhoods characterized by concentrated poverty are at higher risk for sexual risk-taking behaviors, lower academic achievement, and poor physical and mental health. These examples—all social determinants of health—highlight opportunities where we can come together to support and empower adolescents and young adults to lead healthy and fulfilling lives…changing our future together.
Read our full position statement on health promotion and the social determinants of health.
About the Author
Gina Desiderio, Healthy Teen Network Director of Communications, has over 10 years of capacity-building and project management experience, supporting professionals to provide programs and services to empower youth to thrive.