Is it acceptable to try to persuade individuals to change their lifestyles in order to improve their health?
Public health is the science of preventing disease and promoting good health to communities and individuals. Its role is to empower individuals and encourage community participation through health promotion programs and initiatives. Public health can mean different things to a range of different people, namely providing public resources for the good of all, it ensures that deprived people are given support to improve their lives. Lifestyle is a way of life and a way and manner of living. Furthermore, it is an individual’s circumstances, position and economic level. This essay will look at how lifestyle is tied up with identity and how aspects of it can affect people’s ability to make choice by considering three sociological approaches. It will look at whose responsibility is it to maintain individual’s health and wellbeing and consider the individual lifestyle approach. Finally, it will look at how an unhealthy lifestyle is not always a result of choice for certain groups and how charismatic leader’s aim to improve the wellbeing of society.
Lifestyle is connected to identities, and aspects of identity affect individual’s ability to make choices. A person’s identity is built up over time and to understand why someone might do something in a certain way, you would need to look at their past and the way in which they were brought up. There could be a link to the way in which they live now, a person might adopt a certain lifestyle due to their cultural or religious background. Sociologists, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman’s (1967) social construction theory (cited in Leach, 2010, p.7) suggests people obtain an identity through learning ways of living from others starting from childhood. Children learn who they are, what the world is like and how to behave within it, through interactions with their parents and significant others like older siblings. This process of discovering their identity with regards to the social world is termed primary socialisation. As children grow up and move beyond the world of family, they learn how to behave in settings like school, university and different work environments, termed by Berger and Luckman (1967) as secondary socialisation. Their theory illustrates the important role society plays in creating and maintaining identity, however, sociologist, Erving Goffman’s (1968) concept of stigma (cited in Leach 2010, p.10) considers how certain identities are devalued.
A social stigma is the disapproval of a person or a group on the grounds of their characteristics that distinguish them from other members of society. Furthermore, it can result from the perception of mental illness, physical disabilities, ethnicity and even religion. Goffman’s (1968) theory on stigma or, what he referred to as, ‘spoiled identity’, looked at how certain identities are stereotyped and how this can result in the person being considered as less than fully human, (Leach, 2010, p.10). Goffman (1968) categorised stigma into three types, firstly, abominations of the body such as deafness, blindness and physical deformities. Secondly, blemishes of individual character, like mental disorders, alcoholism, addiction and unemployment. Finally, tribal, for example race, nation, religion and social class. Consequently, body and character, the first two types of stigmatised identities, are closely connected to people’s experiences of the use of health and social care services, in addition, race, religion and social class, are also important factors which have an impact on people’s engagement with health services and the possibility of them experiencing different forms of ill-health, (Leach, 2010, p.11). Furthermore, what happens to identity when a person experiences illness? Another concept relevant to the health and social care sector is that of the ‘sick role’.
When individuals are...
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