Factors affecting health and the role of two health professionals

– What is health and well-being?

Health: The old definition of health from the World Health Organisation (WHO) was that it was a ‘state of physical, mental and social well-being and not just necessarily the absence of illness’. However they got criticised for this definition so have updated the definition to “The extent to which an individual or group is able, on the one hand, to realise aspirations and satisfy needs, and on the other hand to change or cope with the environment. Health is therefore seen as a resource of everyday life, not the objective of living it is a positive concept emphasising social and personal resources as well as physical capabilities” I think that this definition is a bit too over complicated however it does include the key elements that I believe to be health. (Fisher, A. et al. 2012. Applied AS Health and Social Care 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford university press)

Well-being: Wellbeing is often simply defined as feeling good and functioning well. This includes having a fair share of material resources, influence and control, a sense of meaning, belonging and connection with people and place and the capability to manage problems and change.

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There are different perspectives on health and well-being that can change through the generations so our perspective on health may be different to that of our grandparents. For example if our grandparents had health problems we may not think they are healthy however they may think they are healthy for living longer.

There are different aspects that determine your health and how it is affected.

  •  Physical health refers to how you are physically and how your body functions. It is the easiest and most obvious way to determine someone’s health for example if someone is very overweight then you can see that they are not healthy however, people may look unhealthy but they cover it up with their personality.
  •  Mental health is linked to emotional health. It is how your brain functions and has a strong effect on the way you think. If you are not mentally healthy then you may make quick decisions based on your current situation but don’t think about the consequences.
  •  Emotional health refers to the ability to express emotions such as anger and fear appropriately. For example if you are feeling depressed then you lack the ability to express your emotions and talk to people. You then end up keeping your feelings bottled up with has negative effects on your health.
  •  Social health is the ability to socialise and maintain friendships with people around you for example you may not be feeling well enough to go out and meet up with your friends so you start to feel left out. Also if you are socially unhealthy you may not be able to maintain relationships with your family such as your children.
  •  Spiritual health can be linked with religious beliefs but also to your own personal beliefs and principles for example you may believe that you need to go for a 30 minute run every day however if you don’t do this one day you may become angry with yourself.
  •  Intellectual health involves the ability to think clearly and realistically. For example if you are feeling stressed then you think more negative thoughts rather than positive which then leads to your emotional and mental health.

B – Factors affecting health

There are different factors that affect health and well-being two examples of these are lifestyle choices and financial factors.

Lifestyle choices

One lifestyle choice that people may choose is to take drugs. A drug is a substance that brings out a physical and/or a psychological change. The most dangerous drugs are those that affect the nervous system as they change the way someone thinks or behaves. People can become mentally or physically addicted to drugs. Mentally addicted means that you don’t feel like yourself if you don’t have the drug so some people will take the drug so they can do things they feel that they can’t do without the drug for example going to work. Physically addicted means that you are forcing your body to obtain something that it is not used to, at first your body tries to reject it but it then slowly begins to accept the drug as ‘normal chemistry’ and starts to tolerate it.

When you stop taking something the body is used to you start to get withdrawal symptoms. Drugs are classified into groups of stimulants, depressants and hallucinogens. Stimulants speed up the messages to and from the brain so makes you feel more awake and confident, examples include, Caffeine, Nicotine, Cocaine and Ecstasy. Depressants don’t necessarily make you depressed however they do slow down the functions of the nervous system, examples include, Alcohol, Cannabis and Heroin. Hallucinogens affect your hearing, sight and perception. They can make you become paranoid, examples include, Ketamine, LSD and Cannabis. Drugs can affect your health physically by making you do things that are out of your control for example you may run in front of a car because you think there are no dangers.

It can also affect your intellectual health because your brain slows down therefore making your reaction times slower. You also do then not have the ability to think clearly and make rational decisions. You can be affected by drugs socially because you may be peer pressured by certain groups to take them and this may have a knock on effect to your family as you may start to push them away leading to family break ups. Drugs can affect your emotional health by making you think differently for example if you take a depressant they may make you start thinking about your life and you can then get upset of depressed. Spiritual health can also be affected by the impact of drugs because you may not stick to your own values and you can then become angry with yourself.

Another lifestyle choice is drinking alcohol, people choose to drink alcohol to improve their mood for example if someone is feeling depressed, they may turn to alcohol to make them feel better. They may also drink to make themselves appear different to other people for example if someone us usually shy they may drink alcohol to appear more confident and speak to new people. (2knowmyself, 2011) Some people become dependent on alcohol and feel that they cannot function correctly without it. This is called alcohol dependency. Alcohol dependency can affect people physically by leading to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart and liver disease; seven out of 10 people who have alcohol dependency are affected by liver disease. In 2010, 6.669 people’s deaths were directly related to alcohol.

Your mental health can be affected by alcohol dependency because you could develop anxiety, depression and even be suicidal. This is because drinking affects the neurotransmitters needed for good mental health. You can be socially affected by alcohol because it can affect your relationships with your family as you could become aggressive. Your relationships with your peers may also suffer as a consequence and you could face losing your support unit and your job.(Drink aware, 2013) Your intellectual health can be affected by alcohol use because the alcohol can affect your reaction times not allowing you to think clearly. As alcohol affects your brain largely it can cause lots of emotions and you may become depressed. Spiritual health can be affected because some religions do not allow people to drink alcohol so if they break that then the person may become angry with themselves.

Financial factors

Financial factors mainly come down to your household income and diet is one of the consequences of this. If you have low income then you may generally find it difficult to afford healthy food. Amy Friese, a nutritionist says, “These foods are cheaper because their made in mass quantities with cheap, low quality, and preservative–laden ingredients. They are high calorie, low nutrient ‘foods’. Basically we’re eating a lot of calories without much, if any, nutrients”(Journal Sentinel, 2013) As healthy food has increased in price over the last decade people are finding it increasingly easier to find cheap alternatives for healthy food for example instead of making homemade burgers people are more likely to get a cheap fast food burger.

This can lead to obesity in adults but mainly children because parents want to buy quick, cheap microwaveable meals. Obesity is not only a consequence of low income but also costs the UK economy over 3 billion pounds every year. (University of Birmingham, 2013) this is because specialist equipment needs to be used in order to cater for obese people such as bariatric ambulances. Obesity can affect your health physically by developing serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart attacks. It also restricts you doing everyday activities like playing with your children. Poor diet can affect your health socially as you may choose not to go out if you don’t feel comfortable which can then affect your mental and emotional health because you are not seeing people and may feel annoyed with yourself. Also if you are religious then your poor diet may affect religious ceremonies such as going to church is you are unable to get there comfortably.

Another financial factor that affects our health is living in poverty. One in five people in the UK are living in poverty. Over a third of the population now says that they are just one large heating bill or one broken washing machine away from hardship. Many are finding it difficult to heat their homes or buy essential clothing. Most shockingly, the number of people in the UK that are going hungry is growing. Two children in every classroom in the UK are arriving at school having eaten no breakfast. Many are going hungry because of a failure of the safety net. (Oxfam, 2014)

Living in poverty can affect your physical health by getting diseases related to poor housing and diet such as colds and asthma which can occur as a cause of damp in the house. Your mental and emotional health can be affected because you may get upset and depressed about living in poverty and you may get worried about money which can then lead on to social issues such as not being able to afford to go out with friends or not being able to afford medical treatment. Children’s intellectual health can be affected by poverty because parents may not be able to buy them equipment needed for school so they miss out on certain things.

C – Biomedical and social models of health

The biomedical model of health is where people tend to be looked at in a similar way to machines. The body systems are seen as parts that can be easily repaired or replaced. They say that if someone falls ill, they go and see their doctor who will treat them and send them home again feeling immediately better. According to this model, health is absence of disease. They go on to say those other aspects in people’s lives are irrelevant such as unemployment. They also deal with illness and ill health rather than promoting good health. Another key aspect of this model is that the person receiving treatment does not take an active role in the treatment. This model is satisfactory when dealing with short term or acute illness however treating someone with a long term illness would be more complicated.

The biomedical model of health began to fall out of favor in the 20th century for three reasons,

  •  Decline in number of deaths due to infectious diseases
  •  Dramatic increase of medical technology and its cost.
  •  Growing emphasis on quality of life

The social model of health is the opposite of the biomedical model because it recognizes the important influence of factors such as housing, poverty and education. A social model of health recognizes that ill health issues can be cured by addressing social conditions, for example someone moving from a damp, cluttered house into a dry, clean house may improve their health. Public health contributed to social improvements by ensuring the sewerage, drainage and water supplies were controlled by the Local Board of Health. (Fisher A et al. 2012)