Social Health: An Individual or National Concern

Health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being. All of us understand how important it is to maintain good health. In case of social health there are certain factors that are not in an individual’s control and there is not much that an individual can do to change the effect they have on his health. These factors are classified in two main categories:

1.    Risk Factors

These factors can drastically influence a person’s and his society’s well-being. They are the factors that are found in the working and living conditions of a person. An individual might want to improve his living conditions but would be unable to do so without any financial aid from someone. Also, a person would want to improve his working conditions but he would have no say in it unless he reaches a good position in his firm. These factors are thus related to money, influence and power that a person holds and the ones who do not have them cannot possibly do anything.

2.    Individual Factors

Though these influencing factors are known as individual factors, there is nothing an individual can do to overcome their effects. This is s because these factors are not ones that a person develops but ones that are there in him like genetics or behavioral risk factors. Though one can try to change his behavior to some extent, there are certain in-born behavioral tendencies that cannot be altered permanently even with great effort. They thus affect ones social health in a negative way (by increasing the vulnerability or risk of certain diseases) and there is nothing the person can do to change that.

However, when we say that these factors are not in the control of an individual, it does not mean that there is nothing that can be done to change them. It is just that the change cannot be bought by an individual but by the whole society. Even the World Health Organization states that the unequal distribution of health affecting factors is in no way a natural phenomenon. It is actually the consequence of a combination of unfair economic arrangements and unrefined social policies. This actually means that poor health in certain regions is not actually the result of either of the above factors. They just contribute towards poor social health. It is actually the way the society is structured and the functioning of various Governments that truly affects an individual’s health. It is definitely true that improvements in the behavioral factors of an individual do contribute a lot towards improved social health. Some of such improvements that aid longevity are:

  1. Reduced intake of tobacco
  2. Improved healthy diets
  3. Adapting exercise in regular routine

However, analysts do suggest that these factors only contribute very slightly to the cause of better social health. It is actually improvements in the material conditions on a daily basis that brings about the main change. It is for this purpose that the Rio Political Declaration (2011) focused on improving certain areas to achieve a better social health status. Some of the focused areas are:

  1. Improved governance of health and development matters
  2. Reorienting the health sector to reduce health inequalities
  3. Monitoring progress in the sector and increasing accountability
  4. Promoting more participation in policy making

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