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The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2020) defines health as ‘A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. When most people consider what is meant by health they look at their physically capabilities. However during recent years there has been a lot of emphasis on the state of one’s mental health, our lifestyle, the food we eat, our occupation, where we live, poverty and climate change when considering our overall health. In 2010 the Marmott review looked at factors such as early child development, working conditions, income, education and environments which can lead to deteriorations in health and health inequalities to increase (Institute of Health Equity (IHE), 2020). There is a lot of literature showing many proven factors as to what impacts our current state of health and well being, but also long term health. It is known that there is freedom when choosing a healthy lifestyle but only freedom within the social and economic restraints a person may find themselves in (Ochieng, 2013). In this essay we will look at the key factors that may impact a person’s health and what promotion strategies would be best to address them.
In early childhood the ability to develop and thrive closely relates to a wide range of outcomes throughout a child’s life. Having good communication and language skills are linked with higher level qualifications and success in education, resulting in higher incomes and better overall health (IHE, 2020). Living in child poverty gives an increased risk of a child experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as living in households prone to domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, abuse or neglect, ill mental health, criminality, separation and living in care (IHE, 2020). It was found that children who experienced multiple ACEs were at increased risk of developing many health problems including asthma, lung disease, stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and mental health problems (IHE, 2020). The health promotion strategies that could be use would be to help people out of poverty. Sure start centres are a service which help to improve the outcomes for children and their families (IHE, 2020). They provide advice and information for families regarding an array of issues, from training and employment opportunities, specialist young parenting and parenting services and they are also linked to the NHS maternity services (National Health Service (a), 2018). Campaigns such as Healthy Start help struggling families by providing free weekly vouchers for food such as plain fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and infant formula, as well as free vitamins.
Education also impacts and influences healthy lifestyles. Unemployment for adults is at a higher rate for people with little to no qualifications (Office of National Statistics, 2017). The Office of National Statistics (ONS) 2015 Annual Population Survey shows evidence of the relationship between level of qualifications and healthy life expectancy (HLE). Those living in high HLE areas were found to be better educated than those in lower HLE areas. This would suggest those with better qualifications would have better jobs and more money to make healthier life choices. However those living in areas with high HLE with no qualifications reported better health then those living in low HLE areas with qualifications such as NVQ level 2 or trade apprenticeships. The differences in healthy life expectancy in relation to education may correlate with factors such as occupation, income and social capital.
How people live their lives reveals how unhealthy behaviours impacts health. One in five males and one in seven females smoke. Smoking is the largest preventable cause for ill health and premature death in England attributing for 1 in 6 deaths. The Annual Population Survey found that those living in low HLE areas were 1.7 times more likely to smoke then those in the higher areas. It also found in these lower areas that women were three times more likely to smoke than men in the higher areas despite a higher prevalence for male smokers than female on average. The higher HLE areas showed a decline in both males and females in smoking with increasing age and an incline in the lower areas. This could suggest local cultures influence lifestyle. It is clear from the findings that health promotion strategies would be most effective in the lower HLE areas. The NHS stop smoking service offers support to quit smoking and also has campaigns like Stoptober to kick start the process by quitting smoking for the whole of October.
Obesity and being overweight causes 5% of global morality (WHO, 2010). One in four adults in England are defined as obese by having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above. The increase in excess weight in children in England goes up from one fifth in 4-5 year olds to a third by the time they hit high school (10-11 year olds). This occurs in both lower and higher HLE areas, however those in more deprived areas were twice as likely to be obese compared to those in least deprived areas (The National Archives, 2015). This shows that lower income areas have an increased risk of being obese which could be due to decreased income leading to consumption of cheap unhealthy food. Offering advice on dietary management would prevent weight gain and promote weight loss. Studies have shown the consumption of fruit and vegetables inversely relates to reduction in lipid oxidation and hypertension causing weight gain and an increased risk of circulatory and heart disease. The NHS provide resources such as The NHS Weight Loss Plan and the Eat Well Guide as well as NHS 5 A Day which gives a detailed account of how to incorporate eating more fruit and vegetables into the patient’s lifestyle, also giving tips, recipes and information on digestive health. The Change For Life campaign encourages children to be active (National Health Service, n.d.). It encourages children with food facts and how to cook, as well as exercises in forms of games.
After smoking and obesity, alcohol is the third largest risk factor causing death and disease in the UK. It can cause debilitating health conditions such as liver disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as gastrointestinal and breast cancer. In 2014 it was found that 1 in 5 people with incomes over £40,000 drank alcohol at least 5 days a week in comparison to lower earners of £10,000 being 1 in 10. This could suggest that frequent drinkers were from a higher socioeconomic area, however the longevity and amount drank would have to be considered. People from lower socioeconomic positions showed to have more hospital admissions and higher alcohol related morality despite the greater alcohol consumption in the higher positions. This could be due to factors such as drink choice, binge drinking and patterns of heavy drinking. Healthcare professionals, particularly Nurses now have a central role in the delivery of preventative care. The NHS also advises not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week to reduce harm to your health.
When considering the key factors that impact on a person’s health it is not enough to lay blame alone on lifestyle choices. Practitioners need to understand that other factors such as economic, social and lifestyle shape the foundations for a healthy life. Health care professionals need to work together to increase awareness and promote healthy living.
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