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Health Policy: Discuss the ways that health can be conceptualized by a society.

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Discuss the ways that health can be conceptualized by a society.
What are the determinants of health in humans?
What is the connection between how a society defines health and how it pursues health?
Has increased access to technology changed that perception over the last decade?
Discuss the connection between health policies, health determinants, and health.

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RESPONSE:

1. Discuss the ways that health can be conceptualized by a society.

The World Health Organization (WHO) (1994) conceptualizes health in a holistic way. It is holistic as it includes physical (biological), psychological, and social components of health, meaning that the society will conceptualize health and pursue health in all these areas. In fact, many health organizations use the following definition of the World Health Organization (WHO):

"Health is a dynamic state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity? (WHO 1998). http://www.who.int/about/definition/en/

Health is also consider a basic and dynamic force in our daily lives, influenced by our circumstances, beliefs, culture and social, economic and physical environments. There are other ways to conceptualize health in society in terms of the risk factors to health. For example, risk factors impact health negatviely, such as: chronic diseases, anaemia, child malnutrition, undernutrition and overweight, access to water, sanitation, and alcohol, tobacco consumption (see http://www.who.int/countries/usa/en/).

Also see the Healthy People 2010 project below (at the end of this response) for the health focus areas.

2. What are the determinants of health in humans?

There is a general consensus on some of the key determinants of health in humans. Many factors combine together to affect the health of individuals and communities. Whether people are healthy or not, is determined by their circumstances and environment. To a large extent, factors such as where we live, the state of our environment, genetics, our income and education level, and our relationships with friends and family all have considerable impacts on health, whereas the more commonly considered factors such as access and use of health care services often have less of an impact.

According to WHO, the determinants of health include:

?the social and economic environment,
?the physical environment, and
?the person's individual characteristics and behaviours.

The context of people's lives determine their health, and so blaming individuals for having poor health or crediting them for good health is inappropriate. Individuals are unlikely to be able to directly control many of the determinants of health. These determinants-or things that make people healthy or not-include the above factors, and many others:

?Income and social status - higher income and social status are linked to better health. The greater the gap between the richest and poorest people, the greater the differences in health.
?Education ?low education levels are linked with poor health, more stress and lower self-confidence.
?Physical environment ?safe water and clean air, healthy workplaces, safe houses, communities and roads all contribute to good health. Employment and working conditions ?people in employment are healthier, particularly those who have more control over their working conditions
?Social support networks ?greater support from families, friends and communities is linked to better health. Culture - customs and traditions, and the beliefs of the family and community all affect health.
?Genetics - inheritance plays a part in determining lifespan, healthiness and the likelihood of developing certain illnesses. Personal behaviour and coping skills ?balanced eating, keeping active, smoking, drinking, and how we deal with life's stresses and challenges all affect health.
?Health services - access and use of services that prevent and treat disease influences health
?Gender - Men and women suffer from different types of diseases at different ages (http://www.who.int/hia/evidence/doh/en/)

Social, economic and political factors; psychological, genetic and biological factors; personal health practices, community resources and the physical environment all shape the health of individuals and communities. It is the combined influence of these determinants of health that ultimately determines health status. Consistent with the WHO list, Health Canada has identified 12 determinants: income and social status, employment, education, social environments, physical environments, healthy child development, personal health practices and coping skills, health services, social support networks, biology and genetic endowment, and gender and culture (http://wchri.srv.ualberta.ca/determinants-predictors-of-health). who expands on each for further understanding ass follows:

(1) Income and Social Status Health status improves at each step up the income and social hierarchy. High income determines living conditions such as safe housing and ability to buy sufficient good food. The healthiest populations are those in societies which are prosperous and have an equitable distribution of wealth.

Why are higher income and social status associated with better health? If it were just a matter of the poorest and lowest status groups having poor health, the explanation could be things like poor living conditions. But the effect occurs all across the socio-economic spectrum. Considerable research indicates that the degree of control people have over life circumstances, especially stressful situations, and their discretion to act are the key influences. Higher income and status generally results in more control and discretion. And the biological pathways for how this could happen are becoming better understood. A number of recent studies show that limited options and poor coping skills for dealing with stress increase vulnerability to a range of diseases through pathways that involve the immune and hormonal systems.

Social status is also linked to health. A major British study of civil service employees found that, for most major categories of disease (cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, etc.), health increased with job rank. This was true even when risk factors such as smoking, which are known to vary with social class, were taken into account. All the people in the study worked in desk jobs, and all had a good standard of living and job security, so this was not an effect that could be explained by physical risk, poverty or material deprivation. Health increased at each step up the job hierarchy. For example, those one step down from the top (doctors, lawyers, etc.) had heart disease rates four times higher than those at the top (those at levels comparable to deputy ministers). So we must conclude that something related to higher income, social position and hierarchy provides a buffer or defence against disease, or that something about lower income and status undermines defenses.

(2) Social Support Networks Support from families, friends and communities is associated with better health. Such social support networks could be very important in helping people solve problems and deal with adversity, as well as in maintaining a sense of mastery and control over life circumstances. The caring and respect that occurs in social relationships, and the resulting sense of satisfaction and well-being, seem to act as a buffer against health problems. Some experts in the field have concluded that the health effect of social relationships may be as important as established risk factors such as smoking, physical activity, obesity and high blood pressure.

?An extensive study in California found that, for men and women, the more social contacts people have, the lower their premature death rates.
?Another U.S. study found that low availability of emotional support and low ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses the ways that health can be conceptualized by a society, as well as the determinants of health in humans, it also explores the connection between how a society defines health and how it pursues health, as well whether an increased access to technology has changed that perception over the last decade. Finally, it discusses the connection between health policies, health determinants, and health. This solution is 4000+ words.

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