Health and illness

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Ill health is a state of poor health. This includes being ill both physically and mentally conditioned. Physically, the condition of the body or the mind that causes distress or pains to the person or those in contact with the person can be deemed an illness. Sometimes this includes injuries, disabilities, infection and deviant behaviours. Mentally, this is a broad generic label for a category of illnesses that may include affective or emotional instability or behavioural dysfunction or impairment. This includes major depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

Health and illness can be defined as negative, positive and holistic. The negative concept of health is the view that being healthy is the absence of illness. For example, not having any symptoms of diseases, pain or distress. People with this view are likely to believe that good health is normal and they take it for granted that they are well. They sometimes think they do not need any special action to keep them healthy and do not see themselves as ill when they are distress or have cold.

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A positive concept of health is the belief that being healthy is a state achieved only by continuous effort. Thus being physically fit and meeting certain expectations. People with this belief take active steps to maintain their health. For example, through their choice of food, by taking exercise and other activities they believe it will keep them well. Such people are likely to feel responsible for their own health. They take credit for the absence of disease and blame themselves if symptoms develop. According to this view, people who do not take action to maintain their own health by healthy eating cannot be healthy if there is nothing wrong with them at any time.

Holistic concept of health is the belief that being healthy means being without any physical disorders or diseases and being emotionally comfortable. World Health Organisation defines health as "A state of complete physical, mental and social well being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO 1984). This embraces all aspects of the individual both psychologically, physically, spiritually, environmentally and socially (Ewles and Simnett 1992). For example, a person who feel anxious or who has low self esteem would, according to this concept not be well. People with this view are likely to know themselves as ill when they experience any unpleasant feeling not just physical discomfort or pains but are likely to know any minor discomfort such as tiredness as a symptom of illness.

Disability is the inability to perform some or all of the tasks of a daily life. A disability may occur during a person's lifetime or may be present from birth. A physical impairment is any disability which limits the physical function of limbs or fine or gross motor ability. This combines with the bio medical model of health and illness where the patient needs to cooperate with health care professionals to limit the restrictions caused by impairment (Shakespeare 1998).

According to Shakespeare (1998)," Disability is seen as a problem that arises when society does not take into account the needs of people with impairments". For example, a person with a hearing impairment may only be disabled if they do not have access to a hearing aid. It is also seen as the restricted opportunity to take part in the normal life of the community due to physical, social or attitudinal barriers.

Bio medical concept of health explains how ill health as the presence of a disease requires a medical diagnosis. This shows that treatment can only change the physical state of the body and this requires a medical professional to treat it. Due to the mind causing the physical illness and is being treated on the physical symptoms, this result in a reoccurrence of the illness but in the socio medical concept, health and illness is being treated by focusing on both the social and environmental factors and not just looking at the physical symptoms. Social and environmental factors that contribute to the influence of health and well being of a person includes; poverty, poor housing, living in dangerous environments, pollution, poor diets, lack of education and unemployment.

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Poverty is defined as "lack of resources to obtain the types of diet, participate in the activities, and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or are at least widely encouraged and approved, in the societies in which they belong (Townsend P, 1979). Unemployment leads to poverty which contributes to poor sanitation. Since there is lack of resources, people with this issue can not afford better meals, good houses and education in which they then live in the dangerous and polluted environments in which they can afford.

All these factors can be perceived in the social context by improving the social and environmental conditions of the people, by embracing social inclusion, putting policies and legislations in place to support vulnerable members of the society with health and social issues and by recognising socio medical models and holistic approaches to health and illness.