Concepts of Health

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Nicola Horton DN 02 98

Health means very different things to many different people.

Discuss the possible reasons for this and how these differences

may influence the process of care.

The concept of health to each individual is a very personal thing. To some individuals it can be the absence of disease but to another it can be getting from day to day adequately caring for themselves’ without assistance. The governments’ policies rule health matters a great deal but this leads to problems when their concept of health differs from that of the individual. One of the major problems in health care is the money available for resources. This essay will look at some different ideas of health and will examine some of the influences that health care and carers depend on which could also influence the process of care in the way of interviews with trained staff and patients.

There are many definitions of “Health”, the most common one being from the World Health Authority (W.H.O.) in 1947:

“Health is the state of complete physical, mental and social well being
and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”
(Hinchcliffe 1947).

This definition, in later years, seemed too broad so the W.H.O. in 1984 added on:

“The extent to which an individual or group is able, on one hand to realise aspirations or satisfy needs and on the other hand, to change or cope with the environment”

(Elves and Simnett 1992).

This indicates that the concept of health is continuously changing with the forever-changing quality of the environment around us. Aggleton (1990) argues that it is too complex to define health and fitness, as some people may be healthy according to some criteria but not according to others. Seedhouse (1986) argues that health is made up of a number of factors that help people to achieve their maximum personal potential. Acheson (1995) states that inequalities in health are still widening and that a recent report demonstrates the shorter expectation of life for people who face multiple disadvantages. On August the 29th 1980 the Department of Health published a report entitled “Inequalities in Health”, more commonly known as the Black report. It claimed that despite thirty years of the National Health Service, manual workers and their families tended to die younger than professional people. This report states that there is a need for government action and a joint approach to health policies at a local level is essential.

There are many types of illness, disease and infirmity. Most individuals’ will experience illness in their lives at one time or another, but how they cope with it depends entirely on themselves, their environment and their background. Concepts of health are instilled in us from a very early age usually by our own experiences and the experiences of our peers. These concepts are also apt to change due to media influences and the fact that as a person ages their outlook on life often changes.

Environment and social class can influence our first concepts of health. Something as broad as air and water pollution may affect the whole population but some social factors such as low income, unemployment or poor housing will affect some groups of people more than others (Kenworthy et al 1996). Epidemiological data, such as morbidity and mortality statistics, suggest health problems of a target population. Statistics may show problems such as alcoholism, communicable and chronic diseases, infant mortality and child abuse (Edelman and Mandle 1998). Some behaviours can influence the risk of disease, for example smoking can increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. There are some nonbehavioural causes of health problems which cannot be altered such as age,...
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