Why Is Health a Social Issue? Essay
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You might well think and ask, illness are concerned only with the physical condition of your body, why could one’s illness have anything to do with the society? However, one’s health issue can affect the society in different ways, for example, alcohol abuse and obesity that decrease the morale. On the other hand, health of a person does heavily depend on the traits of the society including standard of living and inequalities. In other words, not only one’s health will affect society but social issues have impact on individuals’ health too.
In this essay, I will be focusing on how one’s health problems interrelate with the society.
Healthy and Unhealthy individuals
According to World Health Organization, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Health is quite a general term where it is hard to define whether a person is healthy or not. “We need only reflect that it is quite meaningful to ask someone ‘Do you feel ill?’, but it would be quite absurd to ask someone ‘Do you feel healthy?’ Health is not a condition that one introspectively feels in oneself.
Rather, it is a condition of being involved, of being in the world, of being together with one’s fellow human beings, of active and rewarding engagement with one’s everyday tasks. (Gadamer 1996:113) Therefore, society works well rely on one’s health a lot.
When Personal Health Issue Affects the Society
To determine whether a person is healthy or not, it is of much dependant on the individual’s lifestyle. Despite those healthy individuals who contribute to the society in positive ways, such as working effectively that will raise the economy status of a country. The effects of bad individual lifestyle such as drinking and smoking can be seen, not just in individuals, but also in our society as a whole. Problems can be seen as below.
Research has shown that in 1995 alone, nearly 14 million Americans are dependent on alcohol and about ten thousand people died from alcohol abuse. Not only the problem of abusing alcohol is having an impact, injuries and illnesses are costing a lot in the health care, lost productivity at work and economic burden. In the U.K, it was estimated that alcohol plays a part in almost 65% of all suicides. Despite all the outcomes that will cost in an individual, people drink too much take a further toll on families; especially to those parents who are addicted to alcohol will set a bad model to the children and might results in abusing their own children, commit crimes and go to prison; which in turn, all these will affect the development of a child.
Further more, obesity has been increasingly seen as one of the most significant public health problems. According to the International Obesity Task Force, research has shown that 1.7 billion of the world’s population was overweight or obese. Change in size of home appliance, the need for car manufacturers to enlarge the size of the seats in car to accommodate the people in growing size, for example, are all necessary. As a result, when everything becomes bigger, the material that is used will consequently increase the cost, which then passes onto the consumer. Hence, while people should not only consider these problems as potentially dangerous health conditions, they should also take in the account that they have impact on our society as well as the cost that will affect every one of us.
Acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
AIDS has been concerned as one of the major problems in health related to society. The group of people who are blamed for this illness, and the proportion in different gender (i.e. “it is the sexual and drug taking behavior of men which enables the virus to spread” (Macionis, John J. 2007: 697)) experiencing AIDS has raise racism, sexism and it’s linked to stigma and prejudice. Moreover, “AIDS raises major political and cross-cultural issues” (Macionis, John J. 2007: 698), the medical services in low-income countries is far too expensive for them to afford which limit the opportunities for the infected people to heal or delay the disease so that they can function longer, which all in turn, increase inequalities in health and will affect the next generation and the society.
Healthy and unhealthy society
Society, on the other hand, is made up of individuals; people live together in communities. The development of people depends on the environment, which in other words, depends on how organizations manage it to make it a healthy society. Therefore, whether a society is healthy or not does has an impact on individuals.
When Social Issue Affects One’s Health
“Healthy individuals cannot survive when society is sick.” On the other hand, aspects of social structure influence health and illness. Social factors not only affect life expectancy, but the possibilities the one will experience diseases and in turn, the health care that they will receive.
When obesity is one of the significant public health problems in the world, several social factors are being considered shaping the problem of obesity. New technologies such as televisions, cars and computers that decrease the mobility of a person; development of fast food and drinks that are high in fat and sugar which clearly increase the possibility of people getting fatter. When eating habits and changing diets are certainly having an impact on weight problems, for example, “decline in the consumption of fresh vegetables and increase in the consumption of processed vegetables” (Fulcher James, 1999:207), associated with increasing consumption in convenience food such as snacks. It has been reported in a national survey of 1993 that people in the age group of 16-24 consume snacks five to six days each week. These social trends are seen as problems that affect health directly.
Not only changes in society are taking place, inequalities are no longer a new phenomenon. The document called The Black Report that was published in 1980s in the U.K demonstrated that there are still widespread of health inequalities even though the introduction of the welfare state has improved
the overall health. Further, doctors are mostly men, while nurses are usually women. This hierarchy of inequality around health work has already is reproduced. Not only that is reported in inequalities problem, but men’s reluctance to visit the doctor have been reported too. Men usually find uncomfortable when seeing a doctor.
In addition, John W. Saultz, M.D., suggests that girls at around age of 16 will continue to visit the doctor for routine maternity care whereas men will often stop; and this helps explain the reason that waiting rooms are always filled with women, children and old people. Also, “access to resources determines the eventual well-being of the population and it is this access and its rigidly stratified inequalities which continue to reproduce ill-health.” (Whitelegg, J. 1982:23)
Where accessibility is concerned, it is suggested by John Whitelegg that the group with higher average amount of wealth can make private arrangements for the needs in resources. Hence, this is obviously unfair to the people who are with low-income, which raise the debate on inequality in health; and this brings us to a deeper discussion in poverty.
The Black Report found that the main cause of inequalities was poverty. This has been described as the “number one health problem” for many poor nations for many years. “The poorest of the poor, around the world, have the worst health.” In addition, “low paid employment is clearly linked with a high rate of reported ill-health. The Black Report makes the point repeatedly to demonstrate the many ways in which poor health is associated with low paid work.” (Whitelegg, J. 1982:12)
Quality of Life
Other than that, “research on valued states of existence…has reported that health is among the most valued states, and among the most important area of life and of quality of life nominate by people.” (Ann Bowling, 2001:5)
Standard of Living
Despite when people are sitting for longer hours at work, which decreases the amount of exercise that a person gets, will affect one’s health condition, the surrounding environment at work or housing, will lead to poor health condition, for example, hygiene conditions such as the accessibility of getting clean water. “But as the nineteenth century progressed, health in Western Europe and North America improved. This change was mainly due to a rising standard of living that translated into better nutrition and safer housing for the majority of people.” (Macionis, John J. 2007:673)
From the above evidence, we can see how standard of living has such an impact in health. Living in poor housing conditions will not only affect the development of a child, for anyone that lives in damp, cold and moldy housing, in other words, poor condition in the home can cause illness and diseases. It will also result in anxiety and depression, which obviously have an impact on a person’s health.
No one knows how crucially does the environment connect to one’s health, but it is believed that some forms of environmental deterioration will lead to health risk. Not only standard of living is a major factors associated with health problem, but also the surrounding environment. Take an example of city smog. Los Angeles was known as the smog capital of the world in 1960s; only when it has introduced some policies to control the main source of smog that is car exhaust emissions, the smog level dropped dramatically.
In conclusion, health is a biological issue as well as a social issue. Human’s well-being depends on the distribution and extent of a society’s resources. They are interrelated. Either side fails will contribute to impact on the human being or the society as a whole. Therefore, social and health issues should not be neglected; indeed, we have to pay simultaneous attention to both, to ensure that everything is healthy.
Bowling, Ann. Measuring Disease. New York: Open UP, 2001. Print. Elizabeth Dowler & Nick Spencer. Challenging Health Inequalities From Acheson to ‘Choosing Health’ (Health & Society). New York: Policy, 2007. Print. Fulcher, James. Sociology. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. Print. Giddens, Anthony. Sociology. New York: Blackwell, 1993. Print. Macionis, John J. (2007) Sociology a global introduction. Harlow, England: Pearson Prentice Hall
Whitelegg, J. Inequalities in health care problems of access and provision. Retford, Nottinghamshire: Straw Barnes, 1982. Print.
Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health , Commission on Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization, August 28, 2008, p.3. Available from: http://www.globalissues.org/article/4/poverty-around-the-world#InequalityandHealth.
[ 1 ]. WHO definition of Health. Available from: http://www.who.int/about/definition/en/print.html [Accessed on 10 NOV 2009] [ 2 ]. “Healthy individuals cannot survive when society is sick | News Sun – cleveland.com.” Cleveland.com channel parent. Web. 13 Nov. 2009. . [ 3 ]. John W. Saultz, M.D., is the professor and chairman of Family Medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University. [ 4 ]. Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health , Commission on Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization, August 28, 2008, p.3. Available from: http://www.globalissues.org/article/4/poverty-around-the-world#InequalityandHealth [Accessed on: 31NOV2009]