The Health Quality Portability and Accountability Act (HPA) of 1996 established health standards to protect individuals from unreasonable searches for their personal healthcare information. This act also provided compensation to injured individuals for their losses. According to the HPA, health care information means the medical records of an individual which include detailed information about his or her health. This record may include information on physical examination, diagnosis, treatment, medications, hospitalization, outpatient care, emergency, medical condition, disease, and genetic or family history. Personal healthcare services include counseling services, health education, medical diagnostic services, therapy, and treatment under health-related conditions such as cancer and psychosocial disorders.
As a result of the HPA, people are now more aware of the importance of maintaining good health. For this reason, many organizations have started offering health education and other related services. These organizations use various strategies in order to enhance health literacy, which is defined as the willingness to be open and learn from others. Hence, they teach their clients how to deal with health risks and how to avoid or take care of health problems.
In order to promote healthy health, individuals need to be knowledgeable about health risks and take immediate action when they become apparent. One strategy used by organizations that promote health literacy is informing individuals about the health risks of tobacco, drugs, alcohol, and obesity. They make the risk assessment available in different formats such as written information, posters, and films. A major component of the new approach to health risks is information dissemination and education, which help individuals reduce health risks by exposing them to relevant information on current events, smoking dangers, and eating habits.
Community-based programs have also shown great promise in dealing with health issues. The Healthy City Growth Program coordinates with neighborhood organizations to promote health and wellness. The program gives financial incentives to eligible residents in exchange for promoting healthy lifestyles in the community. There are wellness classes provided by community colleges and vocational schools. The Health Professions Institute conducts career counseling services to train residents in nutrition, public health, and psychology.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is one of the departments in the U.S. government that is adopting a “promotion of awareness” approach in addressing health risks. To encourage individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles, the department has launched several campaigns. The Healthy Kids Healthy Program and the Mature Living initiative were recently introduced. The former promotes the teaching of good nutrition while the latter encourages healthy behaviors such as regular exercise and a balanced diet. Another program launched by the HHS is the National Nutrition Education Service (NES). This initiative aims to increase the knowledge and interest of individuals and children about nutrition.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NABM) and other industry groups published a statement against promoting the development of health standards. According to the groups, the creation of health standards would not only result in increased costs but would also infringe upon the rights of businesses to innovate. They claimed that once health risks are defined, they will be controlled by the FDA instead of the market.
Concerned groups also filed lawsuits challenging the legality of regulating the quality of health services, especially health products. A federal appeals court in California recently ruled that the FDA has the authority to regulate food, drugs, and medical devices. The court also ruled that it is not mandatory for patients to purchase health insurance before receiving drugs. The FDA will now have more regulation to implement. It will be interesting to see how these rulings play out in the long run.
Currently, the FDA is allowed to deem certain products as dangerous depending on their contents. However, it can only impose its regulations if it receives an application from a person or organization that claims to represent a health risk. Individuals and groups filing lawsuits feel that the FDA lacks the power to define health risks. In a way, the courts are applying the Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FDA) Administration’s standards on food into their own definition of health risks. For companies and organizations, this means more regulation and possibly higher costs.