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HLSC120: Society, Culture and Health - Analysis And Observation On Health And Illness - Reflection Assessment Answer

January 28, 2017
Author : Ashley Simons

Solution Code: 1CGD

Question: Society, Culture and Health

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My reflection, analysis and observation on health and illness

Health or rather being in good health is very important to each and every individual. This is because its influence is not limited to just how we feel but our functionality and how we participate in the society. The concepts of health and ill health are wide surpassing most individuals hence the complex nature of its definition. World Health Organization (WHO), 1946 define health as a state of full, physical, mental and social wellbeing. They further submit that it does not merely refer to lack of diseases or infirmity. Therefore, ill-health refers to a state of the body deemed undesirable (AIHW, 2010). For people suffering from chronic illnesses or disabilities, this is a topic that stirs a lot of debate in their midst. The situation is worse when handling the topic amongst people with low socio-economic status. Despite Australia being one of the countries with the highest life expectancies, chronic illnesses have been responsible for most deaths. Worse still, the experience is severe for people lying at the bottom of the economic food chain hence can’t afford better healthcare. Generally, the higher the income and education level, the ease with which they can afford better food and housing, better healthcare and more informed healthy choices and behavior. This poses a challenge when defining health and illnesses lest people take sides. Therefore, my personal definition of health and illness is quite different accentuated by the fact that I rarely fall sick/ ill as compared to the definition issued to the other group experiencing health inequality. Moreover, there is need to revise these definitions so as to conform to the changes in time and the advancement in language.

How this reading has helped me expound my knowledge on the topic

Marshall, 1998 shares his thoughts and views on this topic submitting that there are different models that can be used to describe health. He submits that one’s health and wellbeing is as a result of many different and complex relationships of socioeconomic, biological, societal, lifestyle and environmental factors. However, the author notes that the above-mentioned can further be affected by factors as healthcare ranging from molecular to macromolecular such as our genetic makeup. Their effects can either be direct (risk of being burnt by the Sun) or indirect (access to shade intertwined with one’s knowledge on the effects of the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays that in the long run affects behavior). This paper widened my understanding of this topic as it gave laid bare to my eyes that these health determinants can either have positive or negative effects on an individual. It made known to me of the positive effects in that they reduce the risk of us getting exposed to diseases and illnesses. However, these determinants can also have negative effects hence called risk factors as they tend to be more of the lifestyle choices we make e. g. quitting smoking would reduce our risk to heart diseases (WHO, 2008). I, therefore, learnt that Australians are not as healthy as they could be. As a country, a lot of improvements have been registered on different fronts despite the increasing disparities health inequality. Moreover, people living in areas with low socioeconomic power are getting more exposed to health risk factors. The above-mentioned factors means they are less healthy hence have low life expectancies.

Supporting my answer

As stated earlier, my definition of health and illness from my personal experience relied on several factors. There are several similarities for both the definitions. One is that for both the definitions, the meaning of health remains to be the same as for both, the definition has to conform to that provided by the WHO. The same is true for the definition of illness. My argument will be aided by the social imagination template.

Historical factors

Initially, man fell sick and later died as a result of poor nutrition, unsanitary/ poor living conditions, inadequate housing and wars; as a result of population growth man became more exposed to parasites, bacteria, and other forms of communicable diseases. These conditions made it favorable for acute illnesses as polio, whooping cough, influenza etc. Access to doctors with effective medical therapies was limited. Industrialization led to rapid fall in the standards of living as well as of the working conditions.

Advancements in medical science together with innovations in technology and antiseptic medicine paved way for modern scientific medicine. This led to longer life spans of individuals and a growth in the rate of chronic illnesses. Despite the level of economic development being a key factor in one’s health, age, race, gender and social class also act as determining factors. (Fosu & Subedi 1996; Reid 1998) submit that the wealthy and the middle-class are subject to better health profiles as compared to the poor due to poor living and working conditions, high stress levels and malnutrition. In Australia, the number of elderly (over 65 years old) people has increased and it is among this group that chronic illnesses caused the highest number of deaths e.g. stroke, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis (Weitz 2001). (Ireys & Katz 1997) submit that children also suffer from more than 200 different types of chronic illnesses. However, the authors note that women tend to suffer from less severer types of chronic illnesses despite living longer than men.

Cultural factors

Man is known to subscribe to different cultures that in most instances are affected by our ethnic extraction. This is also true for health and diseases as cultures have a great influence on how healthy a community is. After industrialization, the Western countries harbored a culture of monopoly capitalism based on class and wealth hence a global economy with a handful of players mostly the industrialized nations. This is manifested to date in the uneven distribution of wealth that directly affects health. The wealthier an economy is, the lesser the risk of exposure to conditions fit for diseases hence the higher the life expectancy. Additionally, I noted that the dominance culture of the West saw them colonize other states in pursuit of wealth and human resource and this exposed them to diseases.

Also, some cultures are outdated and not receptive to certain types of diseases. There would be a sharp contrast between my definition and that I would provide to an African as there is culture barrier. Some African traditions still practice wife inheritance, a tradition that is unhealthy. When a husband dies, the brother to the husband inherits his wife meaning he too can bear kids with her. This exposes these individuals to illnesses and diseases. Moreover, some African communities treat people with chronic diseases as outcasts and a sign of bad omen.

Therefore, my research on culture made me realize that there are different aspects to the types of definition that I initially had for myself and the one I provided for the group of low socioeconomic status people.

Structural factors

It is at this point that I lay emphasis on how the various forms of organizations and institutions affect my life with regard to the decision I was to make. I further focused on how these vary over time with regard to Australia.

There are several factors that made me realize we have made serious strides in Australia. I noted that providing care for disabled or chronically ill people is really stressful despite the presence of several factors that try to ease the burden. They are namely economic resources, strategies and resources put in place and the family structure. Family structure eased the burden of giving care for black families in Australia as reports indicate they experience reduced stress levels relative to other racial groups. A study indicates that they have a diversified group of care providers and friends (Tripp-Reimer 1997). Patricia (1983) submits that the amount of economic resources at one’s disposal determined the level of care provided. H supports this by a study carried out indicating care managers as better care givers as they had different institutional resources at their disposal. The availability of social support was also key. (Jacobsen 1986) categorizes social support into emotional support that offers feeling of comfort; cognitive support that involves providence of advice, knowledge and information; as well as material support that involves providence of items with monetary value attached to them.

Critical factors

Over the past years, the condition has not shown any signs of changing just yet. This is due to the fact that, stronger economies (as of Western nations) don’t want to loosen the grip hence allowing for equal distribution of wealth and resources. This would, in return, mean that most of the population will have the ability to access better healthcare options hence leading healthy lifestyle. The state is yet to change as a result of some cultures upheld by the different societies present.

Moreover, the medical approach to illness is such that more emphasis is on acute curative model based on emergency treatment and the use of modern and advanced technology (Thorne, 1993). However, chronic illnesses and disabilities are long-term and incurable and often not prevented by the direct medical interventions employed by most institutions. Moreover, some diseases as sickle-cell and Tay-Sachs diseases are encrypted in one’s DNA. Moreover, some are encrypted with regard to the lifestyle we lead as well as environmental factors.


There are several things I deduced from my research on health and illness. I noted with a lot of keenness that it is through this paper that I was able to develop my Graduate Attribute of being ethically informed hence having the ability to analyze this topic.

I learnt that there are economic stressors associated with the management of chronic illnesses hence changing the definition of health and illnesses for the affected. Moreover, people of low socioeconomic status have to make the tough choice of basic living expenses and care for their loved ones. My reflections, therefore, call for a critical analysis of health, government, social and welfare policies so as to help identify cross-sectional strategies. If the strategies are well implemented, it will see a reduction in the cost of managing chronic conditions and of quality healthcare in general. Moreover, if we can achieve a global economic stability then this would provide for room for the study of impact of chronic illnesses on people’s lives. This will aid the creation of a sustainable policy development.

I also learnt that we live in a diversified world filled with people of different cultures and beliefs. Therefore, there is need for these cultures to be streamlined to conform to sustainable ways of living that will see humanity lead healthier lives.

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