Geographic Impacts on Health | Reflection
Have you ever heard the phrase by Margaret Mead, “You are unique – just like everyone else?” I believe everybody is unique but similar in their own way. It is because of this that I consider our perception of health, regardless if it is in the planning, implementation, and evaluation stage, varies tremendously yet remains the same in many ways. Our notion of health strongly depends on so many factors such as demography, ethnicity, religion, tradition, and values.
Demographic distribution of populations has a very big impact on health with regards to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of health interventions because the bigger the population in a certain area, the bigger the intervention. For example, a town of 1,000 people will require less planning, executing the plan will be drastically easier, and evaluating the success of the intervention can be done smoothly compared to a city of 100,000 people. Also, certain areas tend to have a higher prevalence of certain diseases. By studying this, health interventions can be tailored to target certain health concerns or illnesses from certain areas.
Political values of a certain country can affect the different stages of health intervention because most health related projects, these days, needs the approval of the government. Depending on the government, some proposed health projects can take years to fruition while others might not take that long. Furthermore, if the politics of a country is shady, the chances of a proposed health project to be approved or implemented is slim to none.
Religion can be one of the hardest things to deal with when it comes to the stages of healthcare intervention. As a nurse, I have experienced first-hand the impact of religion has on certain medical treatment. There are some religious beliefs that are not too hard to handle but there some religious beliefs that can take it to the extremes. One of the hardest things I have ever been through was when my beliefs and values contradicts a patient’s religious beliefs especially when it involves life and death.
Ethnicity also plays an important role in determining the proper intervention. It is a known fact that there are certain illnesses that affect certain ethnic groups. For example, “the rate of dementia on admission to nursing homes is higher among black residents than among white residents.
Weintraub D, & et al. (2000).” Even though dementia does not have a cure, people can tailor their healthcare interventions to fit the needs of different ethnic groups. But this is only the tip of an iceberg. There are many diseases and illnesses associated with ethnicity. By knowing such data, people can go out of their way to limit a certain disease or illness thereby, hopefully, preventing the disease or illness from ever happening.
Having been lucky to travel to different countries, I can say that human values really does have an impact on health interventions. One very big example is how Filipinos value the elderly. I am not insinuating that other countries do not value their elderly or Filipinos are better at valuing their elderly. I am just implying that we have a different way of taking care of our elderly. Filipinos seem to get a sense of fulfilment when taking care of their parents. I believe in taking care of my parents when they get old because they took care of me when I was young. I will send them to a rest home not because there are not any rest homes in the Philippines, but because I want to keep them close and connected – they are and will always be a part of the family.
Since my beliefs and values have been instilled in me and because I have seen how my parents took care of their parents, it has now become sort of a tradition in which I and my fellow Filipinos take pride of. This is one way on how tradition impacts healthcare intervention. But there are also other ways. In many countries, especially in remote areas, traditional medicine is still being practiced and people in these areas believe this is the only form of medicine out there. A strong push for knowledge would be the proper intervention here.
Having mentioned all these, it is safe to say that determinants either have a direct or indirect impact on health interventions. Also, some determinants can either be a deterrent or an opportunity. By deterrent, I mean those rare ones where health interventions can’t be implemented because certain beliefs will not permit such mediation. However, determinants can also be an opportunity to come up with a better plan, a more effective implementation, and a more efficient evaluation system of a healthcare intervention.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Attitude is the way you think about someone or something. Since we are all unique in our own way, it is safe to say that we also have different attitudes towards someone or something. You may like the Miami Heat while I like the San Antonio Spurs. Having this in mind, it would not be a long shot to conclude that our individual attitude towards health can have a great impact, directly or indirectly, towards planning, implementation, and evaluation of healthcare interventions.
The public’s concept of health and illness is different no matter where you go. The World Health Organization defines health as “physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
These days, we are more united in trusting medicine and research than resorting to traditional medicine. But, that does not mean traditional medicine did not have the same attitude towards health and illness. “Traditional medicine practice (TMP) within Aboriginal Australia encompasses a holistic worldview which reflects that of the World Health Organizations’ definition of health”
Oliver, Stefanie. (2013).
However, the practice of traditional medicine is slowly becoming a lost trade primarily due to colonisation, medical advancement, research enhancement, and technological improvement. Nowadays, most of us rely on science rather than traditional medicine. Have you ever wondered what brought about the advent of medical advancement? Funny as this may sound, most drugs today are of herbal descent and it is very important to recognize the value traditional medicine had on today’s medicine.
There are still places where traditional medicine is still accepted and is still being practiced. Even in a small country like the Philippines, indigenous areas still believe that illness is caused by “voodoo magic” and that a “witch doctor” and his/her methods serve as the cure for such illness. In Korea, roots of certain plants are mixed in a drink and is believed to improve and restore homeostasis. Acupuncture is a method of needle insertion at various points of the skin to stimulate circulation and improve overall balance. This is believed to originate from China.
How health is accepted and practiced in an area will depend on how the public values the importance of health. With all the different diseases out there, I believe that most countries consider health as a big priority and it is very evident from all the research being done to find a cure for certain diseases such as cancer, diabetes, HIV, and many more. It is not only through research that indicates how much importance the public considers health. Diet programs, exercise programs, and even healthier TV shows are being shared and broadcasted in hopes to help gain and inspire a healthier wellbeing.
The public’s attitude towards health and medical professionals is essential to healthcare interventions because if people were not concerned about their own health, they would not seek the aid of doctors, traditional healers, or medical professionals. If they do not need help from medical professionals then there would not be a need for any planning, implementation, and evaluation. However, most people value their lives. They, generally, value their own health and fear what could happen if they do not take care of themselves. That is why people are slowly learning to consult dieticians to help them eat healthier. People are seeking the aid from trainers to get them into shape. People are even considering the use of traditional medicine and traditional methods (e.g. acupuncture) to do whatever it takes to be healthier.
In my own opinion, especially here in New Zealand, the public is very concern about their health and also their environment. They are starting to open up to a more “organic” way of being healthy. These days, people are slowly “going green” and this is why they are exploring different alternatives to common medicine all for the sake of being healthy. I believe the media plays a vital role for the immergence of the “going green” lifestyle that people all over the world are slowly following suit. The public’s attitude towards health, illness, and medical professionals is very important. Without the public’s support, nothing will get done.
The first thing that comes to mind when people mention New Zealand is the natural beauty this country possesses. New Zealand is surrounded by beautiful coastlines waiting to be discovered and crystal clear pristine waters to be explored. Aside from the coastline, New Zealand boasts of majestic snow-capped peaks and breath-taking waterfalls. We all got to see a glimpse of its immense beauty through the Lord of the Rings movie series and the Hobbit movie series.
But the beauty of New Zealand is not only evident looking form the outside-in but also from the inside-out. Here, beauty runs skin deep. New Zealand is a melting pot of multiple cultures ranging from Maori, European, Pacific Island and Asian descent – all of which are very proud of their ancestry. With all these different cultures, it is hard to imagine how people get along. However, people just make it work here. They respect each other’s variances. This, for me, is what makes New Zealand unique and special.
This kind of respect towards one another is generated from New Zealand’s founding document – The Treaty of Waitangi. This treaty simply implies that Maori people have the same rights as British people. This attitude and way of thinking has been instilled on every resident that it has robbed off on other settlers. So people accept each other equally. More so, people are learning to adapt to each’s culture. This is even evident when it comes to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of healthcare interventions.
For example, the Maori’s cultural influence has been socially accepted that the whole nation is working together to maintain and preserve such a culture. It is a fact that Maoris generally have an obesity problem, which is a potential for diabetes, so the whole community is working hand in hand to provide means to aid the Maoris in tackling this problem. Health leaders are assisting whanau to come up with ways to address such an issues through proper education, training, and other means. But the community is not only helping the Maoris because the Maoris are also helping the community by educating them on their ways of traditional medicine.
Since New Zealand is a very diverse country, all cultures are being treated the same way. More and more acupuncture facilities are popping up all over major cities. People are learning different herbal remedies from Asia to treat numerous ailments. Yoga, which originated from India, is just as popular here. People are learning how to eat healthier and exercise regularly like most Asian countries do. The influence is great and the impact is clear. It is up to us to absorb all these new cultural insights and choose a healthier lifestyle.
Weintraub D, Raskin A, Ruskin PE, Gruber-Baldini AL, Zimmerman SI, Hebel JR, et al. Racial differences in the prevalence of dementia among patients admitted to nursing homes.Psychiatric Services.2000;51:1259–1264.
World Health Organization:Declaration of Alma-Ata. Alma-Ata: USSR; 1978. [Proceedings of the International Conference on Primary Health Care] 6–12 September
Oliver, Stefanie. (2013). The role of traditional medicine practice in primary health care within Aboriginal Australia: a review of the literature. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 2013, 9:46. doi: 10.1186/1746-4269-9-46