Impact of Cultural and Social Factors on Health

Topics: Public health, Health care, Health Pages: 11 (3522 words) Published: July 18, 2010
“Health is a universal human aspiration and a basic human need. The development of society, rich or poor, can be judged by the quality of its population’s health, how fairly health is distributed across the social spectrum, and the degree of protection provided from disadvantage due to ill-health. Health equity is central to this premise. Strengthening health equity—globally and within countries—means going beyond contemporary concentration on the immediate causes of disease to the ‘causes of the causes’—the fundamental structures of social hierarchy and the socially determined conditions these create in which people grow, live, work, and age. The time for action is now, not just because better health makes economic sense, but because it is right and just”. Professor Sir Michael Marmot,

Interim Statement of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health

As Professor Malcolm Marmot clearly states, good health is desired and required by all. Under ideal conditions, each and every member of society, around the globe, would either enjoy good health, or at least have access to facilities which would enable him to better his health condition. However, the rise in the global burden of diseases clearly indicates that the current situation is light years away from this ideal situation. South Asia, home to a quarter of the world’s population, is a glaring example of the dismal current scenario. Defining Health and Medicine

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a state of complete well-being: physical, mental, and emotional. Therefore, good health encompasses more than being disease free, and depends upon a healthy environment and a stable mind. Medicine is the social institution that diagnoses, treats, and prevents disease.1 To do so, Medicine depends upon most other sciences—including life and earth sciences, chemistry, physics, and engineering. Popular belief dictates that science alone determines illness, but the sociological view points out that diseases and illnesses are also shaped by social, cultural and environmental factors. The study of sociology assumes that a well-functioning society depends upon healthy people and upon controlling illness. Diseases predominant in South Asian Countries

Communicable Diseases
Inhabitants of South Asian Countries mainly suffer from communicable diseases, where the principal causes of death are respiratory infections (Tuberculosis), HIV/AIDS, infections at birth, diarrhoeal disease and tropical diseases such as malaria, typhoid, etc.

Non Communicable Diseases
Though communicable diseases still remain as the major concern, South Asians are now also suffering from non-communicable diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, hypertensive heart diseases, etc. The onset of these diseases, occurring primarily in the urban regions, are signified by high and rising rates of overweight, central obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. Such trends also exist in rural populations but are lower in magnitude.

Each of the Communicable and Non Communicable diseases which are predominant in South Asia has been shaped by the social structures of the individual countries, along with cultural norms and environmental conditions.

Social Factors behind Diseases
In South Asia, approximately half the population lives below the poverty line and has limited access to health care. Those living below the poverty line, or even in the rural areas, are usually more susceptible to diseases because they often cannot provide adequate preventive and curative health services. Adding to this problem is the fact that poor individuals and households cannot move from unhealthy surroundings, buy enough food or use the services that exist. Poor communities usually do not have the political power needed to get better services. One of the leading causes of death in the least developed South Asian regions is the infectious disease tuberculosis (TB). Poverty and TB create a...
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