Social Determinants of Health

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According to the dictionary, the word health is “the state of being free from illness.” At a first glance, this defination seems to be very direct and simple, however the meaning of the word ‘health’ nowadays is much more complex. The above definition pretty much sums up our view of health in the first half of the 20th century. But over the past few decades, the definititon and concept of health has evolved to encompass more elements than just the physical well-being of a person. This is partly attributed to various researches and studies that have taken place around the world in the last 60 years. Already in 1948, the World Health Organization declared that health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Since then, various studies have expanded on that definitaion to demonstarte that there is more more to health than mere physical fitness. These studies shed light on the varoius external factors that can potentially affect everyone’s health. Realizing the importance of these factors, the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion was drawn up in 1986 in Canada. It declared that health is “created and lived by people within the settings of their everyday life; where they learn, work, play and love”. The charter also mentioned that health is determined by complex interactions between economic and social factors, the physical environment and individual behavior.

In 1998, Health Canada, the Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, developed a comprehensive list of twelve factors, called the Social Determinants of Health. These social determinants were claimed to have a major affect on health and hence they redefined the way we look at health today. These include : a person’s income, social support, education, employment and working conditions, social and physical environments, personal health practices, healthy child development, biology and...
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