Contemporary Social Issues

1 January 2017

The definition of health differs from one layman to another. These differences in definition could be attributed to age, culture, gender, parental upbringing and other influences on ones’ perception of health. The United States perception of health is influence by the biomedical model of health. This biomedical health and diseases views disease as being a result of a specific, identifiable cause originating inside the body (Matsumoto & Juang, 2004). These causes are commonly called pathogens which could be anything from vital to bacterial influences as well as others.

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Treatment of disease under this model is then dealing with the pathogens that are the root of the problem. Therefore, according to this model, a person is considered healthy if he or she is free from disease. In many Asian cultures, a good balance between self and nature is viewed as an important part of health. Many of these cultures’ definitions of health differs from biomedical model as they subscribe to the belief that good health is not only due to the absence of negative states but is based on the principles of ‘yin’ (negative energies) and ‘yang’ (positive energies).

A balance between these energies results in good health and an imbalance will cause otherwise. However, this concept of balance creating good health is increasingly being accepted by Americans and elsewhere in the west as the lack of positive health states in the biomedical model deems it incomplete or insufficient in these modern times. In Malaysia’s population which is made up of many different cultures such as the Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures, a similar pattern of balance between the self and the environment is key in the definition of health.

More than 50 years ago, the World Health Organization, representing 61 countries at an International Health Conference, developed a definition of health as ”a state of complete physical, mental and social well being, and nt merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. (World Health Organization, 1948). This definition is generally accepted in many countries until today. According to the World Health Organization (2010), the life expectancy at birth for Malaysian males or females in 2010 is 69/74 years old. This show an increase since 2003 where the life expectancy for males/females was 62/65 years old.

In comparison, it seems the overall health, if measured by life expectancy, is becoming better. There are few factors which could affect health in Malaysia. One of the major factors is the lifestyle and behavior of the people. This consists f diet, exercise or activity levels, health related behaviours such as smoking and alcohol use and als the stress that comes with everyday life. The health system in Malaysia on an community level focuses more on prevention which mainly means changes in lifestyle and behaviours.

For instance the ‘Tak Nak’ campaign is an anti-smoking campaign organized recently by The Ministry of Health in Malaysia. This campaign aims to prevent increasing prevalence in smoking in the community, especially amongst the youth. According to Info shat (n. d. ), the information portal website for the Ministry of Health Malaysia, almost 30% of all teenage boys in Malaysia between the ages of 12 and 18 have picked up smoking . Amongst teenage girls smoking prevalence was 4% in the year 2000 and has increased to 8% by the year 2004.

This in turn must contribute to the increase in certain chronic disease such as the 17% increase in prevalence per year in lung cancer. A boy influence in life style and behavior differences is culture itself. For example the more the culture condones the behavior of smoking; the more likely people are to pick the habit. Similarly the more a culture condones or rather, prefers women to be overweight, it is more likely the women in that community will be overweight. These preferences of curse stem from a deeper belief or stereotype in these communities that the wealthier one o\is, the larger they are.

In other cultures however, the exact opposite would be the truth. The wealthier one is, they tend to become thinner. In a study conducted by Cogan, Bhalla and Seta-Dedeh and Rothblum (1996) as cited in Matsumoto and Juang (2204), university students from Ghana and the United States were asked to complete a questionnaire about their weight, frequency of dieting, social activities, perception of ideal bodies, disordered eating and stereotypes of thin and heavy people.

They found that Ghanians were more ikely to rate larger body sizes as ideals and Americans, especially females were more likely to have dieted. This shows that differences in culture causes Massive differences in lifestyle and behaviours, in this case, eating behavior, overweight or having an eating disorder is detrimental to one’s health, in the above example. Another factor that effects that affects health is attitudes and beliefs on health by the community. These include definitions of health, attributions about disease casually, treatment compliance, help seeking behaviours and others.

We would speculate then that the acculturation process brought about by modernization in Malaysia has affected the health system positively and in turn contributed to the increased age in life expectancy from 2003 to 2010. This may include better medical facilities, more programs, that not only reach out to those in urban areas but also to those in rural areas such as awareness campaign, immunization and basic health information, such as effective hand washing.

Even the dissemination of the small piece of information, such as how to effectively wash hands, if applied well, can have visibly major impacts on the reduction of spread of diseases. As I have described in the first few paragraphs, different cultures have different definitions of health. That being said, it would be logical to think that attributions to disease causality and treatment compliance would also differ from culture to culture. What maybe accepted as a disease caused by pathogens by western medicine, might be viewed as an imbalance of energies within oneself or the effects of spirits on one’s body in another culture.

According to Al-Krenawi and Graham (2000) as cited in Matsumoto and Juang (2004), a study done by Arab Americans found that utilizing mental health services maybe stigmatizing especially for women which could then damage their marriage ability or increase likely hood of separation or divorce. According to Pania Gua (1998) as cited in Matsumoto and Juang (2004), the cause of mental disturbances attributed to evil spirit and the cur lies within the chrch and not by seeking mental health professional’s help in Latino communities.

For this reason, health and medical health is different. Countries also assimilated in modern medicine. Some types of indigenous healings are Ayurweda, Reike, Acupuncture and so on. This is widely accepted as a culturally sensitive way to approach treatment for different cultures. This also increases the people’s belief in treatment, increasing treatment compliance. In Malaysia, according to Azhar and Vamra (2000), religion is incorporated into psychotherapy.

His is done by integrating prayers and versus from the “Koran” into techniques of psychotherapy, making it more relevant to the culture. That is how attitudes and beliefs of different cultures can sffect their health. The next factor that deserves attention for affecting health care systems. In Malaysia, the halth care system is mainly under the responsibility of the Ministry of Health Malaysia. It consists of two branches that co-exist; the government health care system and the private healthcare system.

The government hospitals are partly subsidized by the government making visiting the doctor, getting medication and treatment as well as surgical operations cheaper than it is in the private centers. However, this also means lower pay for the doctors working in these hospitals compared to those working in private sectors. Measures to ensure there are enough medical staffs for the government hospitals are taken by making it compulsory that all Malaysian who wish to practice medicine in Malaysia after their studies must first undergo 3 years of working in the public sector before they can practice in Malaysia freely.

However, statistics from Nation Master (2010) show that in the year 2000, the ratio of physicians to the population is 0. 7 per 1000 people. That shows a shortage in the medical workforce. Medical doctors from foreign countries are brought to fill the positions. As far as government aided hospitals go, there is some form of inequality in who gets the priority. Government servants are given top priority, especially those of higher rank, by getting free treatment and being attented to first before the other patients.

In terms of being prepared for threats of influences diseases, Malaysia has been through quite a bit, enough t makes sure they are prepared to handle the next one coming. Ever since the Nipah virus swept the country, the Ministry of Health has patched up and created a better, more efficient system which was able to handle the ‘SARS’ situation as well as the ‘H1N1’ bird flu and currently still in progress eradicating the H1N1 virus.

One major issue that Malaysia as well as other countries would to be able to cater to the baby boomer generation as they age. These baby boomers, when older would make up the Golden Boomers. The Golden Boomers era would begin in 2011. This mean hat there would be a lot more old age adults than is in a normal proportion of the population. The country would then need to increase the availability of facilities for the elderly, which would include the medical facilities because with age comes the deterioration of health.

Malaysia and other countries need to gear towards having the capacity and the ability to handle to size of geriatric population and the health issues that come along with the situation comes. Health then releases on an interplay between these factors, lifestyles and behaviours, attitudes and beliefs, the medical health care system and also other factors such as the environment. Global warming and unpredictable changes in weather, with extreme hot and cold weather can cause damage to the body systems as well as change the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Many different types of bacteria and viruses flourish in hot weather causing new waves of infectious diseases to be spreading vastly across the continents. With natural disasters become more savage, unpredictable and frequent than before, many diseases spread like wild fire in the aftermath especially through water reserves. Health issues are changing so rapidly that countries need to elaborate with each other and put in much more effort in making sure the health of the people are taken care of.

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