A huge amount of research and analysis highlights the importance of health promotion and preventive care and support. Investing up-stream in program and policy changes that can prevent ill health and provide people with the information, resources and support they need to stay healthy can help to prevent down-stream sickness and acute care expenditure. But this is more than just about promoting healthy lifestyles; effective health promotion must also take into account the wider social, economic, and political factors that shape the opportunities for good health. Advice to eat fresh vegetables is of little use to people who survive on a social assistance diet; calls to exercise more can’t be taken up so easily in communities without safe open space or recreational facilities.
It is crucial that health promotion also take into account the very different circumstances and needs of the most health disadvantaged populations. When it doesn’t, generic health promotion education and programs tend to be taken up disproportionately by more educated and advantaged people; and health disparities can become worse. Similarly, effective health promotion takes equity and diversity into account in its planning and delivery. For example, programs may need to be delivered in the languages and cultures of particular ethno-cultural communities.
Wellesley has addressed health promotion through an equity lens in a range of reports, workshops and presentations.
Preventing and managing chronic diseases is also a crucial element of progressive health reform, and it too must be seen through an equity lens. Diabetes illustrates the need to build equity in. Its incidence and impact vary dramatically with social and economic conditions; and efforts to prevent or help people manage their conditions cannot be effective unless they take this into account.