Lifestyle Health Agenda: Nurturing Well-Being Holistically

MDJunior's Lifestyle Health Agenda serves as our compass for understanding, enhancing, and championing holistic well-being. This model expands beyond traditional health paradigms by recognizing the intricate interplay of physical, mental, and emotional health. At its core, it inspires individuals to take control of their health by concentrating on three primary components: the North Star, the Levers of Holistic Lifestyle, and the Determinants of Health.

The North Star: Guiding Our Mission

At the heart of the Lifestyle Health Agenda shines our North Star, the vision that propels our mission. This guiding light steers our efforts to empower individuals, particularly the youth, to embrace selfless service and holistic health. Through mentorship and community involvement, our objective is not only to improve individual health but to positively impact entire communities.

Levers of Holistic Lifestyle: Building Blocks for Health

The Levers of Holistic Lifestyle serve as the foundational pillars of a healthy life, irrespective of one's unique circumstances. MDJunior firmly believes that achieving these fundamental aspects of well-being is both attainable and a fundamental human right. These levers create the groundwork for a holistic health approach, including:

1. Mental, Social, and Emotional Health:

This dimension centers on understanding our mental well-being, emotional resilience, and social interactions. It plays a pivotal role in shaping our outlook, reactions, and relationships. Recognizing the significance of this triad empowers individuals to navigate contemporary stressors, including information overload, societal expectations propagated through social media, and the erosion of close-knit communities.

Example: Lower socioeconomic status is the leading determinant to limited access to mental health services, resulting in higher stress levels and reduced mental well-being among disadvantaged individuals. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, serious mental illness encompasses the onset of diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder (within the last year) of duration such that it has resulted in impairment that “substantially interferes with major life activities.” As of today, 9.8 million adults have experienced SMI, out of which 2.5 million live below the poverty line. As depicted in Figure 2, adults 26 or older who lived below the poverty line were more likely to experience SMI than their counterparts above the line. Furthermore, the percentage of individuals below the poverty line experiencing SMI is similar in each adult group.

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2. Nutrition and Fitness: Nutrition and physical activity are fundamental to maintaining our health. Our dietary choices and exercise habits profoundly impact our energy levels, immune function, and long-term disease risks. In a world characterized by easy access to calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods and predominantly sedentary lifestyles, these factors offer a way to combat global epidemics such as obesity and diabetes.

Example:  Healthcare access intertwines with nutrition and fitness through a complex interplay of health literacy and food label usage. Research at Emory university underscores the significance of health literacy, revealing that young adults with poor health literacy are less likely to utilize food labels, potentially leading to unhealthy dietary habits. Conversely, higher self-efficacy prompts more frequent use of food labels, aligning with better dietary choices and improved health outcomes. A parallel study uncovers a correlation between poor food label comprehension and low literacy and numeracy skills. This nexus illuminates how healthcare access, or the lack thereof, can influence individuals' nutritional decisions, highlighting the importance of fostering health literacy for healthier nutrition and fitness practices.

3. Physical Health: Beyond the absence of disease, physical health encompasses our overall physiological vitality. This dimension is about prevention, timely medical intervention, and health maintenance. Acknowledging the importance of regular health check-ups and informed health choices is crucial, particularly in a world grappling with rising healthcare costs and environmental degradation.

Example: While strides have been taken to narrow health outcome disparities, achieving full equity in physical health remains an ongoing challenge and is delineated along lines of race and ethnicity. Despite overall health improvements, persistent disparities continue to affect certain outcomes, notably within the context of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related issues. Notably, the gap between African American and white populations in terms of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) diagnoses and mortality has significantly widened over time, despite efforts for improvement (Levine et al., 2001, 2007). This underscores the need for targeted interventions and comprehensive strategies to address the intricate intersection of race and ethnicity with physical health, ensuring equitable health outcomes for all populations. Figure 3 below depicts the rates of new HIV diagnoses delineated along lines of race/ethnicity, thus depicting the disproportionate impact of AIDS on African Americans

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4. Behavioral Health: Our behavioral choices, from digital habits to substance use, intimately connect to our health outcomes. Understanding and modifying these behaviors is essential for achieving well-being. Addressing issues such as increased screen time, substance misuse, and environments inadvertently promoting harmful habits can substantially reduce their potential risks.

Example: Socioeconomic status profoundly influences smoking prevalence. According to a study by the Center for Disease Control, Men below the poverty line exhibit a 41.1% smoking rate compared to 23.7% for higher-income counterparts. For women, rates are 32.5% versus 18.3%. Specific groups, such as white, black, and American Indian/Alaska Native men and women below the poverty line, face even higher rates – up to 53.7%. These stark disparities emphasize the crucial need for targeted interventions, bridging the gap between income levels and behavioral health outcomes.

5. Sanitation and Hygiene: With rapid urbanization and population growth, sanitation and hygiene have emerged as major public health concerns. A clean environment is critical in disease prevention, yet many urban areas grapple with waste management and clean water accessibility. Our collective actions, including cleanliness drives, educational campaigns about hygiene, and teaching proper handwashing techniques, can significantly reduce disease transmission.

Example: Health disparities in the realm of sanitation and hygiene, viewed through the lens of geography as a social determinant of health, are highlighted by the challenges faced by refugee populations. A cross-sectional study by researchers at the University of California at San Diego investigating water, sanitation, and hygiene access among refugee camps across multiple countries determined that despite relatively high access to improved water sources, many refugee households exhibit low access to waste disposal facilities, sanitation privacy, basic sanitation, and hand hygiene facilities.

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6. Safety: Safety challenges are omnipresent in the modern world, whether in the digital realm or on busy city streets. Ensuring personal and community safety involves anticipating and addressing potential threats, from cyberbullying to rising traffic accidents.

Example: Health disparities in safety, particularly when considering environmental and climate factors as determinants, are evident during extreme weather events. These events, exacerbated by climate change, disproportionately affect communities in disaster-prone areas. The increased risk faced by marginalized communities highlights how climate-related safety risks intersect with social determinants, potentially leading to disproportionate negative health impacts. As climate change intensifies, addressing safety concerns within the context of environment and climate is paramount to ensuring the well-being and resilience of vulnerable populations facing these challenges

7. Reproductive Health: In a swiftly evolving world redefining gender and sexuality norms, reproductive health remains a fundamental topic. By advocating for comprehensive sex education, supporting accessible reproductive healthcare services, and fostering open dialogues around these topics, communities can safeguard the reproductive health of all members.

Example: A comprehensive decade-long study of US reproductive health outcomes from 2010 to 2020 underscores the profound impact of race and ethnicity on healthcare disparities. The research reveals that contraceptive use differs significantly among ethnic groups: 67% among non-Hispanic White women, 64% among Hispanic or Latina women, and 59.9% among non-Hispanic Black or African American women. These disparities extend to other critical aspects of reproductive health. For instance, Pap test rates show variations, with 73% of non-Hispanic White women, 74% of Hispanic or Latina women, and 79% of non-Hispanic Black women aged 18-64 obtaining these screenings. Mammogram screening rates for women aged 40 and over also highlight differences, with 72% among non-Hispanic White women, 72% among Hispanic or Latina women, and 78% among non-Hispanic Black women. These significant variances emphasize the urgency of targeted interventions to rectify systemic disparities and ensure equal access to quality reproductive healthcare for all women.

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