Assignment Two – Current patterns of ill health in the UK M2: Discuss the factors likely to influence current and future patterns of health in the UK. In the 21st century society there are two current factors that are very obvious in affecting patterns of health. These are that of social class affecting health and lifestyle choices. There has always been a link between social class and health, even with the welfare state and the improvements made to health in all sections of societies over the years, a difference still remains in this area.
This difference is applied to all aspects of health, which include life expectancy, general levels of health and infant mortality. Many people argue that as long as the quality of life is improving in all public sectors then there is no concern for anyone. On the other hand some others argue that the failure to close this social difference is a disgrace particularly taking into account that the NHS has now been operational for 62 years and this still hasn’t removed the marked differences in all sections of health across the social classes.
Since social class encompasses a number of different influences such as wealth, culture, status, employment and background, which makes the link between social class and ill health is complicated. In 2012, an article in the Guardian newspaper, written by health correspondent Dennis Campbell, publicised that the middle class population are making the trend of attempting to improve their health thrive whilst the ones in lower class continue with risky behaviour which therefore increases their chances of developing a range of serious illnesses and put ‘unavoidable pressure’ on an already hard-pressed NHS.
During the period of time where the Labour government embarked on a campaign to encourage people to live healthier lives, 2003-2008, a study was carried out to look at the differences between the health of people in different social classes. The results showed that those with no education qualification were more than five times likely as those with degrees to engage in four key damaging behaviours in 2008, compared with three times as likely in 2003. Due to hese statistics being found there has now been a lot of doubt over whether government health secretary will fulfil his pledge to ‘improve the health of the poorest fastest’ so as to improve the gap in health inequalities. This has restarted the debate as to how to encourage poorer people to adopt healthier habits as it was proved that the UK’s richest citizens live seven years longer on average than the poorer neighbours. This increasing divide was identified by David Buck, a senior fellow at the King’s Fund who was head of health inequalities at the Department of Health until 2010.
Buck stated that ‘the [widening] inequality gap is due to the improvement in those at the top, and, to a lesser degree, those in the middle, not because those at the bottom have got worse per se. They’re stuck in a rut’. The second factor that currently affects health greatly in the UK is lifestyle choices. A person’s lifestyle choices can depict what happens to the individual in the future and currently it is getting out of hand and causing more and more negative patterns of health. Factors including smoking, diet, alcohol, culture, recreational drugs and access to leisure and recreational facilities all affect leading a healthy lifestyle.
The government has put out many advertisements on lifestyle choices, particularly their campaign on getting the nation healthier, and therefore nowadays everyone knows how to do it, it is whether they act on this or not that is the problem. They are fully aware of the effects it has on both them and the individual’s surrounding them. There are more strategies implemented to try and reduce the number of people the smoke, drink excessively and take drugs. The biggest scheme done by the government is the education for the population on how to eat healthily and the importance of regular exercise so that they live a healthy life.
They work with industry to incorporate these schemes through ways such as labelling on foods and drinks to make people more aware of the contents and reducing levels of sugar, salt and trans-fats. In the UK about 46% of men in England and 32% of women are overweight, and an additional 17% of men and 21% of women are classified as obese. Overweight people and obesity is rapidly increasing so it is estimated that by 2015 over 50% of the population will be obese. These campaigns have a big emphasis on education and in particular in settings such as primary and secondary schools.
Children are being taught about healthy lifestyles, one of the big changes was inputting healthy foods into school canteens. Adults are also being educated by replicating the idea in schools workplaces also have fatty foods replaced with healthier foods and reducing the number of smoking areas to discourage smoking breaks at work when it all gets too stressful. Improving lifestyle was given more of an emphasis after statistics showed the trends in obesity and learning that it was causing 9,000 premature deaths per year in the UK. It was also shown to cause heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Link this up with deaths caused by CHD in the UK shows that people need to learn more about healthy living. Due to these statistics some people are finally starting to realise problems between lifestyle choices and health and therefore quite a few are attempting to alter their lifestyle so as to maintain or proceed with a healthy life. Obesity, drinking and smoking are the three main lifestyle choices that cause death and disease and it is causing the NHS billions of pounds to deal with it all. I have proved that obesity is on the rise and smoking rates have been decreasing in recent years however drinking is still rising.
The bill for dealing with drunkenness and alcohol abuse, which causes problems such as liver disease, is nearly ? 3 billion a year, with the toll from smoking still being slightly more despite the progress made in driving down the rates of those smoking. There are two main factors which I think will affect health in the future and these are age and the idea of genetics. In most countries there are more and more people who are aged 60 years or over than any other age group and this is because of longer life expectancy and declining fertility rates.
The population is an ageing population and people can look at this in the view that public health policies and socioeconomic development is having success on the population. On the other hand it provides a challenge for society to accept, adapt and become more in acquaintance with older people. Life expectancy has increased ever since the NHS was introduced for both genders and this trend is predicted to continue for many years to come. Due to this ageing population that is obviously going to increase dramatically in the future then healthcare is going to be increasingly in demand.
Since there will be more elderly people then there will be a range of conditions that will also increase as they are linked with age. These can include dementia, strokes, arthritis, osteoporosis and many more. These aren’t really curable so they can cause many difficulties in providing care and support. The NHS will be in high demand and therefore will need to change basic provision, one example being having to increase the number of beds on wards as there will be more people to care for.
The area of palliative care will also have to be widened with more people being employed and the care developed since there will be a rise in numbers of elderly people who need the care and this could then help hospitals if there are too many beds taken up. The social sector would also have to expand to encompass the increase in the ageing population. Residential and respite care will have to grow more since at home elders are more at risk of falling or injuring themselves.
This could involve more buildings of day centres, elderly care homes and organised groups for those either over a certain age, or suffering from particular conditions. The community will also come into play as District Nurses will play a big role in assessing individual’s homes and their health as to whether they are fit to keep on living there. The other factor that I think would affect health in the future is the idea that genetic issues will improve health due to medical advances. There wasn’t much information, for both medical professionals and the general public, on genetic conditions before the NHS was founded.
This meant that often conditions couldn’t be treated and sometimes, due to appearance, people were socially disregarded; lived a short life due to a lack of prevention; or considered ‘retarded’ due to their condition. The mixture of the development of the NHS and advancing technology means that professional’s knowledge on genetic conditions is increasing drastically and will hopefully continue to in the future. Using the example of cystic fibrosis our knowledge can tell us that in the 1960s and before, most babies born with cystic fibrosis only survived for a few months or years.
Today, many people with cystic fibrosis are living into their late 30s and beyond. With optimal care and treatment, it is estimated that about 8 in 10 of today’s children with cystic fibrosis should live into their mid 40s or 50s. With treatment, most people with cystic fibrosis can live reasonably normal and productive lives. This is all down to the improvements in care and treatments and although it is unlikely that medicine will prevent this condition they can manage it. Maybe in the future a cure could happen but in the present day we cannot tell.
Since we cannot know what scientists are currently researching and how the technology will advance then it is hard to tell what could happen with genetic conditions. However due to the massive developments in previous years then these could continue to develop even more so in the future. References: * http://www. patient. co. uk/doctor/Health-and-Social-Class. htm * http://www. guardian. co. uk/society/2012/aug/23/class-divide-health-widens-thinktank * http://wiki. answers. com/Q/How_many_people_are_obese_in_the_UK * http://www. 21stcenturychallenges. org/focus/britains-greying-population/
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