Health and Medication – A Social Issue
In many societies, health is associated with life itself. It encompasses the entire way people live and perceive their lives. Health is also seen as a process and not a condition that can be achieved or lost. For this reason, it is not always easy to evaluate one’s health.
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a state of full physical, mental and emotional well being and not just the absence of sickness and infirmity. Many different definitions have been applied to this concept over the years. Still, a common factor has emerged among all the definitions – good health is a product of healthy social determinants which determine a person’s ability to enjoy a full life. These social determinants are: the family environment, the educational environment, the home environment and the government environment.
The absence of any of these key factors, say experts, indicates a person’s inability to achieve or maintain good health. These determinants include the family, the community and the government. The absence of one or more of these key determinants results in a person’s health status being unable to meet the requirements for good health.
A recent study by the Commonwealth Institute of Medical Research, University of Sydney, and the University of Adelaide, focuses on the relationship between social determinants and health outcomes. The researchers examined the effect of social determinants on life expectancy and the health care utilised. They examined the effect of the level of Government expenditure on health care, the rate of increase in life expectancy, the economic burden of health care and the health care effectiveness of the health care system. They found that despite the increase in life expectancy, the level of Government expenditure on health care did not keep pace with increasing life expectancy.
The researchers also looked at the effect of a range of socio-economic factors on health policy. These factors included unemployment, ethnicity, gender, rural/urban disparity, levels of alcohol consumption, smoking, blood pressure, use of healthcare, country of birth and life expectancy. They found that the largest single predictor of life expectancy was the level of Government expenditure on health care, followed by the rate of increase in life expectancy. Other determinants of health policy were blood pressure, blood cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, exercise, employment history, life expectancy, economic resources, cultural diversity and political empowerment.
Health and medical interventions are necessary to bring about health improvement. However, many of the preventable causes of morbidity and mortality such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and diabetes mellitus can be controlled and managed by lifestyle changes. It is known that long-term interventions in the health course are more costly than short-term interventions. Although controlling or reducing the negative social well-being effects of health is important, life-course patterns may also be influenced by environmental factors. Overall, this study highlights the importance of managing health, and the need to address the neglected health equity issue of absence among the different groups and communities in society.