Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a state of full physical, mental and emotional well-being and not just the absence of illness and infirmity. Numerous definitions have been employed over the years for different purposes. While some have certainly been more accurate than others, a definitive list of definitions for “health” would be quite extensive. We’ll only be covering the most commonly accepted definitions for our purposes here.
The concept of health has often been influenced by the influence of social determinants on well-being. The concept goes back at least to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. For some time, the poor were thought to be inherently sick and should be treated with medical care. As the industrialization process continued and even worsened over the ensuing centuries, the poor were still thought to be inherently poor, despite the advancements in health care that were made.
Social determinants are indeed important in the equation of health. After all, it’s the state of being able to pay for health care or the lack of it that impacts a person’s health. Poor health care can cause a person to miss out on life. It can also lead to disability. This is why overall health is a significant determinant for economic prosperity and freedom.
According to some social determinants including ethnicity, gender, culture, and location, people who possess good health are considered wealthy and healthy, while those who do not have good health are considered poor and unhealthy. Over time, this perception has led to some discrimination. In addition, research has suggested that poor health affects family cohesion and family survival.
Some social determinants that contribute to health inequities are the prevalence of drug use. Other ones are obesity, smoking, diabetes, and lack of physical activity. As more people become aware of health promotion measures such as drug testing, exercise, and weight management, they tend to avoid these conditions. This can exacerbate health disparities. For example, men who smoke have higher life expectancy than non-smokers.
Health equity continues to be a major challenge for public health organizations. There are many programs designed to reduce health disparities. One of the most successful has been the AIDS Prevention Program that has been active in reducing stigma and increasing access to services. Although health promotion is a long way from becoming a reality for all communities, there is hope in sight as health promotion strategies gain greater support.