The primary means of improving the social determinants of health
Dennis Raphael in his two articles, Reducing social and health inequalities requires building social and political movements and Getting serious about health, proposes various ways in which the social determinants of health can be improved.
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In the first article, Raphael proposes that the social determinants of health can be improved by ensuring the active involvement of the political class (Raphael, 2009). This is mainly because the individuals who appear to be in a position of authority especially those in government can easily influence the electorate to adopt proper health practices.
In the second article, the methods of improving the social determinants are listed as barriers that need to be overcome if the desired results are to be achieved (Raphael, 2008). The author’s main proposal in this article is the shifting of focus to target broad social determinants as opposed to emphasizing behavioral strategies. Raphael is against the government’s insistence on using downward strategies even when they have been proven to be ineffective. He instead suggests that it is high time that an appreciation of the social determinants of health is given immediate consideration.
From the two articles, a number of means for improving the social determinants of health have been proposed. These are: provision of proper education, guaranteeing of job opportunities for individuals with qualifications, ensuring that the country has food security, provision of healthcare services, provision of security for the unemployed, decent housing for citizens, and the consideration of gender issues (Raphael, 2008 and Raphael, 2009). For a developed country like Canada, food security basically means that all citizens can afford three square meals a day, and whenever possible they have the choice for variety. Provision of healthcare services entails giving the citizens the ability to take charge of their health by ensuring that they have access to medical care whenever needed and if possible, they can go for regular body checkups. Security for the unemployed entails coming up with mechanisms to help citizens secure jobs and those that find themselves jobless should be put on a regularly-updated system that will help them seek new jobs. Canada is among the most developed countries and the administration should devise ways to ensure that its trained professionals are able to put into good use the skills they obtain in class. The provision of proper housing for the populace is also a key method of improving the social determinants of health (Personal Communication, May 12, 2010). Proper housing for a developed nation should mean more than just four walls and a roof to protect a person from the harshness of weather conditions. The definition of proper housing in Canada should include the provision of housing that also provides the comforts of a home, in the sense that the house (home) should be a place that the person is willing to go to after a hard day’s work.
Why would doing so be difficult?
It would be difficult to follow the criteria mentioned above because of a number of reasons. First, the social determinants of health are designed at making the world as ideal to live in as possible for each and every individual (Raphael, 2002, pp. 1-19). By demanding that individuals be provided with education and then provided with meaningful employment failure to which the government should work provide unemployment benefits basically indicates that individuals can no longer choose their fate (Poor any more, 2009). The various criteria listed above essentially make the state responsible for its citizens’ well-being to the extent that it discourages individuals from pulling their own weights. It is understandable for aspects such as food security to be given consideration but the citizens should be encouraged to work towards achieving food security at a personal level (Raphael, 2002, pp. 171-173). This may be quite difficult especially if the state has pledged to guarantee security in the first place.
The future look
If an average York University was to be tasked with the responsibility of improving the social determinants of health the future would appear perfect furnished with all the material and social possessions that a college student would like. For instance, college students are generally chasing their dreams in order to lead successful lives in the future. Therefore, if one such student is to be asked to isolate a social determinant of health, he/she will count out poverty, suggesting that if individuals can avoid being poor then they should do so at all costs. Material possessions will definitely feature prominently among the important criteria for determining the health status of a population. It will be understandable for this student to suggest that for improved social determinants of health, all citizens should afford to drive a fancy sports car and no one should live in houses with leaky roofs.
The proposition to improve the social determinants of health in Canada
To improve the social determinants of health in Canada, the political ideologies operational in the nation-state will have to be constantly reviewed. This is particularly in regards to the aspect of the welfare-state which is basically the usage of the government’s power to ensure that all the citizens are well provided for. I would recommend that welfare-state and supporting political ideologies be updated to suit the modern trends.
I also propose that inclusion of the heath of indigenous communities such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders be included while coming up with assessment strategies for social determinants of health. This will come in handy in guaranteeing generational change and coming up with a better and sustainable future for coming generations. Social determinants should essentially be linked with healthcare services if desired results are to be achieved.
Security is one of the major aspects whose improvement would serve to improve the social determinants of health in Canada. As from class discussions security entails all aspects of life and not just protection from bodily harm (Personal Communication, May 12, 2010).
Individuals should be shielded from the effects of a depressed economy, poor governance, and from food shortage.
Finally, I propose that proper channels be created for the public to contribute to defining the social determinants of health. This is because with changes in time and with modernity and technology taking over almost every aspect of social living, individuals are forced to constantly keep on dealing with newer and newer health challenges and it is only when the administration seeks their opinion that it would be in a position to address their specific health issues.
Personal Communication. (2010, May 12). Social determinants of health. Canada: York University.
Poor no more. (2009). Income Inequality and Child Poverty in Canada: from Poor No More, a Canadian feature documentary. [Video]. Web.
Raphael, D. (2002). Introduction to social determinants of health. In D. Raphael, (Ed.), Social determinants of health: Canadian perspectives (pp.1-19). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
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Raphael, D. (2002). Foundations of lifelong health: Food and shelter. In D. Raphael, (Ed.), Social determinants of health: Canadian perspectives (pp.171-173). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
Raphael, D. (2008). Getting serious about health: New directions for Canadian public health researchers and workers. Promotion and Education, 15, 15-20.
Raphael, D. (2009). Reducing social and health inequalities requires building social and political movements. Humanity and Society, 33, (1/2), 145-165.