The causes of ill-health in the world: The social, economic and political context of health and disease Welcome to Unit 2!

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UNIT 2




The causes of ill-health in the world: The social, economic and political context of health and disease


Welcome to Unit 2!
In this unit we discuss how physical, environmental, social economic and political factors affect health. We identify public health problems, explore their context, and analyse their immediate, underlying and root causes and risk factors. We learn that in order to address the physical/biological causes of ill-health, as well as the socio-economic, cultural and political causes we need promotive and preventive approaches alongside curative measures.
In this unit we examine the broader social, political and economic context of health and disease. We address questions such as:


  • What is social inequality and what factors determine inequality?

  • Why do health inequalities exist between and within countries?

  • How are health and development or ill-health and underdevelopment linked?

  • Why are some countries developed and others underdeveloped?

  • What social, political and economic changes are needed to address the basic causes of ill-health and to promote development in the Third World today?

  • What is the most appropriate health care approach to adopt, which promotes development?



Study sessions
Study session 1 Causes of ill-health and their classification
Study session 2 The social determinants of health
Study session 3 Social equality, equity and health status
Intended learning outcomes


By the end of this session, you should be able to:


Public health outcomes:


  • Discuss how social, economic, political and physical environmental factors affect health in a local setting (i.e. social determinants of health).

  • Apply this knowledge to analysing factors which affect Public Health in your local environment.

  • Identify Public Health problems, explore their contexts, analyse their immediate, underlying and root (IUR) causes and risk factors, and rank their priority using selected models.




Academic outcomes:


  • Use diagrams to define concepts.

  • Preview texts

  • Make notes and summarise ideas.

  • Interpret, compare and draw conclusions from various diagrams.

  • Use the writing process cycle.





Unit 2 – Study Session 1

Causes of ill-health and their classification


One of the world's biggest killers and greatest causes of ill-health and suffering across the globe is listed almost at the end of the International Classification of Diseases. It is given the code Z.59.5 - "Extreme poverty."

(World Health Organisation)



Introduction

In Unit 1 we started looking at some of the causes of ill-health in relation to the life and death of Rakku’s child. We begin this unit by returning to an analysis of the causes of ill-health and look at how they are classified and categorised. We also discuss some underlying social issues which can influence health and result in diseases.


Session contents
1 Learning outcomes of this session

2 Readings

3 Social Determinants of health

4 How the causes of ill-health are classified

5 Similarities between the different types of classification

6 Session summary




Timing of this session

There are three readings for this session and three tasks. It should take you about 3 hours to complete.



1 LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR THIS SESSION





By the end of this session, you should be able to:

Public health outcomes:


  • Identify direct and indirect causes of ill-health.

  • Analyse and classify the main causes of ill-health




Academic outcomes:






2 READINGS AND REFERENCES





Author

Title

Werner, D. & Sanders, D.

(1997). Chapter 1 - The Life and Death of One Child: Rakku’s Story. Questioning the solution: The politics of Primary health care and Child Survival. HealthWrights.: 11-12


Wagstaff, A.

(2002). Poverty and health sector inequalities. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 80 (2):97-105

McKeown, T., Record, R.G. & Turner, R.D.

(1975). An Interpretation of the Decline of Mortality in England and Wales during the Twentieth Century. Population Studies, 29(3): 391-422



REFERENCES


  • Marmot, M. (2005). Social determinants of health inequalities. Lancet; 365: 1099–1104




  • McKeown, T., Record, R.G. & Turner, R.D. (1975). An Interpretation of the Decline of Mortality in England and Wales during the Twentieth Century. Population Studies, 29(3): 391-422




  • Wagstaff, A. (2002). Poverty and health sector inequalities. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 80 (2):97-105


2 SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH






TASK 1- Define social determinants

In Unit 1, Study Session 4, we found that there are numerous causes that result in ill-health. You probably heard about the determinants of health.



  1. Define or explain what is meant by the social determinants of health.






FEEDBACK
According to the WHO, “Social determinants are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices.”
Figure 1 is a diagram which shows the general social determinants that impact on a person.
Figure 1: General socio-economic, cultural and environmental conditions

(Source: G Dahlgren and M Whitehead, 1991)


The concept of social determinants emerged in the 1970s and was influenced by the work of McKeown and colleagues who studied the reasons for the decline in mortality in England and Wales during the twentieth century. They highlighted improvements in living conditions and nutrition as determinants that led to improved health in the population. This showed the impact of social determinants on health.



READING

McKeown, T., Record, R.G. & Turner, R.D. (1975). An Interpretation of the Decline of Mortality in England and Wales during the Twentieth Century. Population Studies, 29(3): 391-422


Poor social conditions increase the chances of a person developing a disease. Such social conditions include poverty, social exclusion, poor housing and poor health systems, poor water supply, migrant labour, lack of adequate land and unemployment, to name a few.

In this section we will look at a number of social determinants namely:


  • Unemployment

  • Poor Education

  • Poor Housing and

  • Transport

  • Poverty


Unemployment

Unemployment can affect health in numerous ways. Firstly, being employed is better for health than being unemployed. Unemployment is a major cause of poverty and is also associated with stress. Life expectancy for unemployed people is lower than for the general population. Being employed does not only provide one with income but also offers an opportunity for development or progression.


It is important to note that employment can also have adverse effects on health. For example, people who work in places that manufacture asbestos can develop asbestosis which is a condition causing chronic inflammation of the lungs and, in many cases, lung cancer.
Poor Education

Education increases one’s chance of securing employment. Many research studies have shown that poor maternal education has an adverse effect of the health of the baby. Rakku’s story is an example of how poor education can result in ill-health. Furthermore, educated people tend to have more resources, live in better neighbourhoods, and tend to cope better with stress.


Poor Housing

Housing quality has been linked to health. For example, overcrowded and poorly ventilated housing has been associated with increased risk of Tuberculosis (TB), while dampness has been linked to respiratory problems.

The ability to secure housing is associated with income, so in households where there is no or little source of income, families may lose their accommodation, especially if they are paying rent. Vulnerable groups, such as homeless people and refugees, are especially at risk of acquiring diseases due to lack of, or poor, accommodation.


Transport

Lack of adequate or effective public transport systems can segregate those without reliable transport; this includes the poor, the elderly, and those residing in rural areas. Poor transportation can make it difficult for people to access places of employment and other services such as health services. For example, a poor women living in rural areas may experience an unattended home delivery due to lack of transport.


Poverty

Poverty can be seen as both a cause and a result of poor health. It affects health directly and indirectly. For example poverty can lead to food insecurity which in turn leads to malnutrition – a causal factor. However, if a person is malnourished he or she may be unable to participate in daily activities and thus become less productive and able to sustain their livelihood, resulting in poverty. The links between health and poverty are described in Figure 2.


Figure 2: Cycle of health and poverty

(Source: WHO, 2002)






READING

Wagstaff, A. (2002). Poverty and health sector inequalities. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 80 (2):97-105




4 HOW THE CAUSES OF ILL-HEALTH ARE CLASSIFIED





READING

Werner, D. & Sanders, D. (1997). Chapter 1 - The Life and Death of One Child: Rakku’s Story. Questioning the solution: The politics of Primary health care and Child Survival. HealthWrights.: 11-12.







Task 2 – Check what you already know



  1. Think about the pattern of disease and death in underdeveloped countries which you read about in Unit 1.




  1. Re-read the case study in the above reading about the causes of Rakku’s child’s death which you studied in Unit 1 Session 3.




  1. Use a mind-map to remind yourself about some of the causes of Rakku’s child’s death.






FEEDBACK
You saw a similar mind-map to the one below in Unit 1 Session 3. However, the mind-map below also includes the beginnings of a classification of the causes of the child’s death. Read on to understand how and why we classify causes of ill-health.







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