Determinants of Health and the Health Policy in the US


There exists different understanding of health between societies. This has resulted into increased health risks in some and reduced health risks in others. Technologic and economic developments are favouring growth in health reducing the risk of catching disease and how to deal with diseases and how to maintain this situation in the long run. Stakeholders in health have thus to work together as the health status of an individual has an effect surpassing the individual himself to the society. As such, determinants of health, perception of it and activities surrounding maintaining a healthy society have to be linked together as facilitated by governments to ensure the common goal of having a healthy society.


From healthy living to healthy eating, individuals are being informed on the need to take their health as their concern from every aspect. This boils down to how the society including all stakeholders perceive health and the factors surrounding the health issues in persons and how the two relate for the common good of maintaining a healthy society. As such, this paper discusses how society understands various health concepts and the determinants and activities by the society surrounding it and how development in various spheres such as technology and health policies relate.


Understanding of health in traditional and modern societies is relatively the same as they focus on one’s wellness. However, there are unique perceptions of various issues. Traditional societies have their idea of health limited to environmental determinants of health other than pathological aspects. Traditional societies such as the Aborigines of Australia who still prefer their jungle life view health issues with a lot of mythology closely related to their religious beliefs. To them, diseases and other health problems such as disabilities are linked with the supernatural powers of their gods.

Modern societies in the developed world have a entirely different understanding of the health concept. The most recent concern that is redefining health is the weight issue. While some traditional societies view being overweight as an indicator of wealth and social standing, the same is viewed as a health problem in the modern society. Increased awareness in health related matters has led to more research in this field and as such more health risks are being uncovered. One major development has been the identification of the hazard level in “innocent” practices such as the use of pillows in bed, use of electronic gadgets such as mobile phones that emit harmful radioactive rays among others. As such, Longest (2002) says that there exist two general schools of health thoughts; modern and traditional. He says that the traditional society has unfounded beliefs and perception of the whole health issue while the modern society is enlightened on the role of nature, genetics, lifestyle and environment in determining health.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 1947 declaration, “health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This remains as the basic definition of health world over which renders traditional explanations and understanding of health obsolete. It has produced three dimensions in health as physical, mental and social.

There exists some factors that determine our “complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” McLellan and Wilson 2008. These factors have been grouped to obtain some order. Major groups are genetics, physical environmental, lifestyle and behaviour, social environment (economic and cultural), and healthcare services. All these factors are generally expressed in their ability to affect the two major aspects according to McLellan and Wilson 2008 as feeling well and the ability to function.

Genetics are responsible for transferring some of the health issues from the parents to the offspring or from one generation to the other. Manbir (n.d.) says the passage of the disease from the donor to the recipient is determined by what he calls genetic material better known as genes. Due to differences in male and female genetic composition, some of these hereditary diseases can only be passed on to a particular sex. He says that the same way that looks and character traits are transferred from parents to their kids, so are genetically linked diseases if any. Again, the body size and disease vulnerability and resistance are in a big way determined by our genetic makeup thus playing a vital role in determining our health. Common hereditary diseases are Down syndrome, marfan syndrome, autism etc.

On the other hand, lifestyle and behaviour are more inclined to self and personality issues. Persons who take up smoking do so on their free own will and thereby increase their chances of contracting respiratory related diseases such as lung cancer. Other will take up heavy drinking exposing themselves to higher chances of contracting liver failure and liver cirrhosis.

Exposure to harmful environment also plays an important role in determining our health. As earlier said, exposure to radioactive rays may cause illnesses such as cancer and organ failure. Other physical activities such excessive physical exercise or lack of it may increase the risk of contracting a disease or physically result to one. Obesity has often been linked to lack of exercise and poor eating habits. Again the food or water ingested may result to illnesses. Common diseases determined b our physical environment are cholera, diarrhoea, etc.

Our social environment can be viewed as socio-cultural or socio-economic. Socio-cultural factors include religion, cultural practices and beliefs, race, gender, education and family composition or structure. In this case, major cultural; practice that has made global headlines in its effectiveness in fighting disease is male circumcision. Researchers have shown that circumcision in males reduces the chances of contracting HIV in cases of unprotected sexual intercourse. Given that some cultures do not uphold circumcision of males, then their health is put at risk due to such cultural practices.

Socio-economic factors have a more general perspective in that their contributions are highly linked with the available health care. While individuals may be well endowed economically to obtain quality health care, the services might not available and if they are probably not in time to avert the pending health risk. Economists have noted that higher national GDP means improved health care services that in the long run reduce incident of disease due to better preventative measures and knowledge by the society (Longest, 2002). Common diseases that can be linked to our socioeconomic status are malnutrition, kwashiorkor and other related diseases that take opportunities sin unhealthy eating and lack of enough food.

With the modern understanding of health and related issues, individuals are taking more responsibilities towards their health. Primitive traditional practices are being done away with to embrace modern explanations concerning diseases and health and in the process ensuring a healthy society. While traditional societies link diseases and health issues to the supernatural religious aspects, they thus pursue their health agenda through religion and beliefs. On the other hand, the modern society has taken initiative to pursue health by initiating more research to understand causes and cures of diseases. The health of a society is used as a measure of economic prosperity of a nation and as such governments are committed into ensuring a healthy population that is productive and in the process avert the economic costs of an unhealthy population.

With the grouping of determinants of health in place, the baton now has been passed to bodies and authorities in place to educate the public on these issues and how they can manage them to reduce incidence of disease. Technology has played a great role in this via two ways. One way is that increased research and better research methods and equipments have allowed man to understand the causes of some the diseases. Cultural beliefs that hold no facts are quickly been phased out and scientific explanations based on facts replacing them. This has meant that individuals are more informed on what is harmful to them and what to avoid. Scientists and researchers have been able to demonstrate the intricate relationship between health and the physical, economic, cultural, personal and social structures that underline our health and the chance of disease. The other way in which technology has played a vital role is by introduction of preventative measures in health care that reduce the effects of common health hazards and diseases (Commers et al, 2002). A good example is immunization on polio, measles etc.

As said earlier governments world wide have made efforts o reduce incidences of diseases in the society and avert the economic costs that accompany illnesses. Through the department of health, more hospitals have been established and the health insurance fund put in place. This has adequately addressed the socioeconomic determinants of health. Laws and regulations have been put in place such as to protect workers from exposure to harmful environments in the work place. Education on health issues has been increased with philosophical explanations such as holistic health put in place to address all the determinants of health at once. Manufactures of products have to undergo stringent testing of their products to ensure that they do not pose any health risk to consumers. In addition to this, the government has made efforts to increase the number of nurses and doctors ratio.


The change in perception by the society on health has made been mainly achieved through research and education to the public as facilitated by governments. Globalisation has meant that activities surrounding health issues are not limited to individual governments only but are world wide as shown by the presence of WHO which coordinates health initiatives in member countries worldwide. Thus, to achieve a healthy global society, the determinants of disease and perception by society have to be coordinated.


American holistic health association, (2009). Web.

Commers, M., Visser, G. and De Leeuw, E. (2000), Representations of preconditions for and determinants of health in the Dutch press. Web.

Longest, Beaufort (2002), Health Policymaking in the United States, New York: AUPHA/HAP Singh, Manbir, Web.

Wilson, Diane and McLellan Mary, (2008) “Health Determinants and Health Promotion” Medical University of South Carolina. Web.

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