Case-Discussion: Health Risk Factors

Case-Discussion: Health Risk Factors
Case-Discussion: Health Risk Factors
Case-Discussion: Health Risk Factors
Week 3 discussion Caring for Vulnerable Populations Review the Week 3 Case Study (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. This case study focuses on a vulnerable young woman who is facing many risk factors. Discuss several risk factors that may impact health outcomes for vulnerable populations. Assurance is one of the three core functions of public health. Find a resource in your community (other than WIC) that could assist Mary during her pregnancy. Start by searching the Internet for your local health department’s website. What services does it provide for pregnant women, those living in poverty, or those with mental health concerns? What about your local welfare office? Does it provide prenatal or mental health services? Are there any service organizations, crisis pregnancy centers, or churches providing help for pregnant women or those experiencing mental health concerns? (The Internet, your local newspaper, and the telephone book may also help you locate resources.) Briefly describe the types of services that you found. Choose one agency and assess this agency in terms of the 4 A’s. Is it accessible, acceptable, affordable, or available for Mary or other pregnant women that you case manage? Are there adequate resources for other vulnerable populations in your community?
Risks are all around us. A nearby sneeze may raise your risk for catching the flu. Obesity boosts the odds you’ll get diabetes. Smoking increases your risk for many cancers. And if you pay attention to news headlines, you may worry that you’re at risk for food poisoning, Zika infection, shark attacks, and more. How can you know which health risks apply to you?
Health risks can sometimes be confusing, but they’re important to understand. Knowing the risks you and your family may face can help you find ways to avoid health problems. It can also keep you from fretting over unlikely threats. Knowing the risks and benefits of a medical treatment can help you and your doctor make informed decisions.
“Understanding health risks is key to making your own health care decisions,” says Dr. William Elwood, a psychologist and behavioral scientist at NIH. “It gives you perspective on potential harms and benefits, so you can make smart choices based on facts and not fears.”
A health risk is the chance or likelihood that something will harm or otherwise affect your health. Risk doesn’t mean that something bad will definitely happen. It’s just a possibility. Several characteristics, called risk factors, affect whether your health risks are high or low.
Your personal health risk factors include your age, sex, family health history, lifestyle, and more. Some risks factors can’t be changed, such as your genes or ethnicity. Others are within your control, like your diet, physical activity, and whether you wear a seatbelt.
When you see health statistics, consider the types of people being described. If they’re not similar to you, or if the category is very broad, then your risks may be different. A general statement like “More than half of Americans over age 45 will develop heart disease at some point” is based on statistical averages across the entire U.S. population. If you’re younger than 45, your heart disease risk will generally be much lower. The more risk factors you have—such as smoking, high blood pressure, or diabetes—the greater your risk. Exercise and a healthy diet, on the other hand, can make your chance of developing heart disease lower than for most other people.
“In many ways, our perception of risk is irrational,” says Elwood. “We sometimes worry over something that’s extremely unlikely, like Ebola in the U.S. And we ignore steps we can take to prevent what’s much more likely to harm us, like heart disease or colon cancer.”
Talking about health risks can seem intimidating. Even doctors sometimes have trouble with risk concepts. That’s why NIH supports research to improve how medical staff and others communicate health risks and prevention strategies to patients and the public.
“Math in general is hard for a lot of people. Yet math is often hidden in everyday activities that affect our health,” says Dr. Russell Rothman, a physician and scientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Rothman’s research focuses on helping people understand and work with numbers, so they can reduce their risks for diabetes and excess weight, including childhood obesity.
Studies show that the way we hear and understand health statistics can be influenced by how the numbers are described, or how they’re “framed.” Different descriptions can affect how clear the information is and also what emotions it stirs. For example, the statement: “More than 20% of Americans will eventually die of cancer” might sound less scary from a different perspective: “Nearly 80% of Americans will not die of cancer.” The same information might seem clearer described as a ratio: “More than 1 in 5 Americans will eventually die of cancer.” Research shows that pictures or diagrams are often the most understandable—for instance, showing 5 human figures with 1 in a different color.

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