by Jacob Demé
While health education falls within a diverse spectrum of public services to improve a community, its full potential for positive change has been lost in the tumultuous political struggle that permeates a developed society. For many government agencies, determining the efficient allocation of funds to public programs, their decision-making process boils down to a concentrated pool of factors. The most prominent of these factors is need of service in a given population as well as potential for monetary gain. Therefore, I contend that focus on these two determinants of funding for public health and community development programs contributes to the integral pitfalls that hinder their progress.
By utilizing an as-needed basis for health education funding, the door is opened to a host of problematic consequences affecting the sustainability of these projects and the results they provide. Many grants for health education programs run on a rolling application process, in which approval is required for renewal following the end of a determined time interval. Requiring continuous support presents a paradoxical state that jeopardizes the continued funding of successful programs. Furthermore, as the successful programs accomplish positive change in their target community, statistical representation of their need for consistent funding decreases, making them less likely to receive adequate financial support. Conditional and intermittent funding for health education is an issue that permeates health programs globally, and places health care practices at risk of devoting greater attention and resources toward a treatment-minded approach. The danger lies not in the development and implementation of treatment options for any given health issue. Instead, with greater focus on treatment, preventative methods will remain less developed, defeating hopes for progression in health care in the generations to come. At the core of this serious public health issue lies the ever-present motivation of profit maximization.
When asked about the attitude toward preventative medicine, Candice Jensen, program coordinator for the Placer County HIV/AIDS Testing and Surveillance Program, responded, “Cost speaks volumes to tax payers and policy makers and whether return on investment is the most compassionate reason or not, it can’t be denied that preventative care and other strategies that contribute positively to overall health and wellness may be less expensive than chronic medical treatment and hospitalization.” This type of profit-driven behavior is clearly exemplified in the pharmaceutical industry, the greatest source of support for treatment-based health care. While Jensen also expressed a positive outlook for a shift towards preventative medicine, this brighter future cannot be achieved without greater awareness of these problematic issues and support for their resolution.