Contemporary Social Issues

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Health and Wellness

The definition of health differs from one layman to another. These differences in definition could be attributed to age, culture, gender, parental upbringing and other influences on ones’ perception of health. The United States perception of health is influence by the biomedical model of health. This biomedical health and diseases views disease as being a result of a specific, identifiable cause originating inside the body (Matsumoto & Juang, 2004). These causes are commonly called pathogens which could be anything from vital to bacterial influences as well as others. Treatment of disease under this model is then dealing with the pathogens that are the root of the problem. Therefore, according to this model, a person is considered healthy if he or she is free from disease.

In many Asian cultures, a good balance between self and nature is viewed as an important part of health. Many of these cultures’ definitions of health differs from biomedical model as they subscribe to the belief that good health is not only due to the absence of negative states but is based on the principles of ‘yin’ (negative energies) and ‘yang’ (positive energies). A balance between these energies results in good health and an imbalance will cause otherwise. However, this concept of balance creating good health is increasingly being accepted by Americans and elsewhere in the west as the lack of positive health states in the biomedical model deems it incomplete or insufficient in these modern times.

In Malaysia’s population which is made up of many different cultures such as the Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures, a similar pattern of balance between the self and the environment is key in the definition of health. More than 50 years ago, the World Health Organization, representing 61 countries at an International Health Conference, developed a definition of health as ”a state of complete physical, mental and social well being, and nt merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. (World Health Organization, 1948). This definition is generally accepted in many countries until today.

According to the World Health Organization (2010), the life expectancy at birth for Malaysian males or females in 2010 is 69/74 years old. This show an increase since 2003 where the life expectancy for males/females was 62/65 years old. In comparison, it seems the overall health, if measured by life expectancy, is becoming better.

There are few factors which could affect health in Malaysia. One of the major factors is the lifestyle and behavior of the people. This consists f diet, exercise or activity levels, health related behaviours such as smoking and alcohol use and als the stress that comes with everyday life. The health system in Malaysia on an community level focuses more on prevention which mainly means changes in lifestyle and behaviours. For instance the ‘Tak Nak’ campaign is an anti-smoking campaign organized recently by The Ministry of Health in Malaysia. This campaign aims to prevent increasing prevalence in smoking in the community, especially amongst the youth. According to Info shat (n.d.), the information portal website for the Ministry of Health Malaysia, almost 30% of all teenage boys in Malaysia between the ages of 12 and 18 have picked up smoking . Amongst teenage girls smoking prevalence was 4% in the year 2000 and has increased to 8% by the year 2004. This in turn must contribute to the increase in certain chronic disease such as the 17% increase in prevalence per year in lung cancer. A boy influence in life style and behavior differences is culture itself. For example the more the culture condones the behavior of smoking; the more likely people are to pick the habit.

Similarly the more a culture condones or rather, prefers women to be overweight, it is more likely the women in that community will be overweight. These preferences of curse stem from a deeper belief or stereotype in these communities that the...
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