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Health and Wellness: Access to Wellbeing

HEALTH_FITNESS_webThe World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Eating right, exercising, and sleeping well play an equal role in the prevention of infections and diseases. However, a good sense of self, a loving support network, and the potential for continued personal growth is also important to our overall wellbeing.

Many of us are not in control of the factors that cause us to become ill whether they be genetic, environmental, or something else entirely. There are many avenues we can take to improving our health, which include the use of traditional and modern medicines when we are ill.

However, most people cannot access or afford proper health care such as healthy sanitation and hygiene, which is necessary to prevent the spread of disease.

Moreover, a large proportion of the global population are disenfranchised because of poverty, geographic location, disability, or social stigma against those who are ill. In addition, sexual health continues to be a highly contentious issue around the world particularly with concern to the method of transmission of some of the world’s deadliest diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, one of the most pressing issues in terms of health and wellness is the education, prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. The Millennium Development Goals seek to address this issue specifically in Goal 5: Improve maternal health and Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases.

While people of all ages should maintain good health, young people face special challenges as they transition from childhood to adulthood. With the onset of puberty, the body changes to accommodate physical and emotional growth, but it also marks one of the most vulnerable stages in a young person’s life. During this time, females tend to struggle more than males with body image and self-esteem issues which can lead to dangerous eating disorders and even death. On the other hand substance abuse, depression, self-mutilation and suicide have higher incident rates in males than females and if left untreated these health concerns may lead to permanent mental and physical damage.

Given that everyone’s body and medical history is different, it is important to be aware of what makes you sick and even what makes you feel better on a personal level.

There is extensive international research documenting the ways in which the health status of individuals or groups is significantly determined by social and economic conditions as well as by therapeutic care or personal health behaviours. Social determinants of health (SDOH) are social and economic conditions that influence the health of individuals and communities. A wealth
of research on SDOH provides evidence that: health follows a social gradient; stress damages health; the health impacts of early development and education lasts a lifetime; poverty and social exclusion cost lives; stress in the workplace increases the risk of disease; job security improves health;
unemployment causes illness and premature death; social supports and supportive networks improve health; alcohol, drug and tobacco use are influenced by the social setting; healthy food is a political issue; and healthy transport means walking and cycling and good public transport. Other basic determinants of health, such as genetics, interact with SDOH to present a broad overview of why
some individuals and communities are healthy while others are not.

In 2002, Canadian researchers, policy-makers and community representatives gathered together at a conference entitled “The Social Determinants of Health Across the Life-Span” to comment upon and discuss the current state and health
implications of key SDOH in Canada. The conference produced “The Toronto
Charter for a Healthy Canada” which identified ten key SDOH for Canadians as recognized in Health Canada and World Health Organization (WHO) documents. The ten determinants, in alphabetical order, include: early life; education; employment and working conditions; food security; health services; housing; income and income distribution; social in/exclusion; the social safety net (including contributions from the voluntary and community sector); and unemployment and job security. SDOH are directly related to the ways in which resources are organized and distributed among the members of a society.

Sustainable health and wellness is not only part of our survival but it is also a continuously rewarding way to live out our entire lives.

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