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Children's HealthProviding health care for children means nurturing the physical, developmental and mental health of children from birth through adolescence. Some 8.5 million children in the United States are not covered by health insurance. Younger children may suffer unnecessary and serious consequences of untreated chronic diseases like asthma, which is currently reaching epidemic proportions. Teens are at risk for depression, suicide and other mental and emotional disorders. The challenge is to address the very different needs of both young children and teens.
Chronic IllnessExtending life introduces new challenges for patients, families and health care providers. Technological advances in health care mean that Americans are living longer while suffering from chronic conditions such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and AIDS. Quality of life for patients, respite and resources for caregivers and managing increasingly complex cases for health care workers are just a few of those challenges.
Healthy LivingAmerica's obesity epidemic is very much in the news from the increase in Type 2 diabetes in children to the myriad health risks faced by overweight adults. Changes in diet, exercise, lifestyle choices, and the built environment all play a role in healthy living. What are the costs of an inactive lifestyle? How can healthy choices be communicated to a public at risk? And how can communities support healthy changes?
Public Health ChallengesPublic health departments are on the frontlines in redefining and responding to new public health challenges. In some rural communities the impact of methamphetamine use has become the number one public health menace. Other communities are confronting massive economic shifts that couple increased need for mental health services with lost access to health insurance. Across America providing for the health needs of immigrants is crucial to protecting the health of the broader population.
Quality of CareImproving the quality of care Americans receive means tackling insidious barriers to care one by one. Isolation and lack of access to care is a pronounced factor in health disparities among people with disabilities, minorities and immigrant groups. Lack of health insurance creates an enormous health care barrier for 43 million Americans. Even basics such as improving understanding and communication between health practitioners and patients could greatly improve health outcomes.
Reducing AddictionAddiction knows no social, ethnic or economic boundaries. Addictive behaviors take different forms-addictions to tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs, gambling, etc.-but they are all manifestations of the same harmful compulsive behavior. How can we better understand and manage addiction? Individuals, policy leaders and communities can generate awareness and help make recovery possible and accessible.
Rural Health Care AccessAccess to health care is problematic in rural areas. Issues such as who receives medical care and who doesn''t, the relationship between community and economic development and health care access, and the feasibility of developing rural health care provider networks might be explored. Or, strategies for extending the reach of financial capital and human capital, including family physicians, nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives, and for encouraging rural students to obtain the education needed to practice in their rural communities, might be explored. For more information, go to the Southern Rural Access Program website, www.srap.org
Strengthening CommunityCommunity mental health can be adversely affected by many stress-related situations. Violence, racial conflicts, economic hardships, national crises and global incidents are a few of the events that can affect a community. Residents who come together in times of uncertainty and difficulty find they are helped by renewed connections. Working together helps alleviate feelings of anxiety, sadness and isolation, and gives community members a sense of solidarity and support.
Vulnerable PopulationsCommunity coalitions, family support services, and faith-based groups are just a few of the organizations seeking to understand and reduce the health care disparities in underserved and vulnerable populations. What are the health care needs of such communities as non-English speakers who lack health care, children who have no access to dental care, at-risk teens, seniors on Medicaid who need a variety of services, those with chronic conditions, or culturally isolated communities? How will those needs be met and by whom? How are members of these communities becoming involved in solving their own health care needs?