Human Health, Its Importance and Contributing Factors

A close look at news headlines around the world throw up some very interesting observations.

“For some U.K. teens, sun doesn’t provide enough vitamin D.”

“Air pollution tied to high blood pressure risk.”

The underlying theme that connects these headlines is the impact they have on human health.

In the first instance, a bacterial outbreak of the E. coli strain has severely affected 38 people in 20 US states between December 2015 and May 2016. The deadly E. coli can cause dehydration and bloody diarrhea and the most affected are the elderly, infants and those with weak immune systems.

The second headline causes great concern among scientists and researchers because the study showed that nearly 80 percent of UK teens had insufficient Vitamin D levels even at the peak of summer. What is even more alarming is that the surveyed children were mostly white-skinned; as we know white skin is most sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet B rays and need minimum sunlight exposure to produce required amounts of Vitamin D. The participants were exposed to sufficient amounts of sunlight every day and their diet included supplements and Vitamin-D fortified foods like butter, cheese, eggs, red meat and oily fish. Vitamin D is naturally synthesized in the body when it is exposed to sunlight and very little can be obtained from the foods we eat; it reinforces the fact that outdoor activity is increasingly becoming less and less important even among teenagers.

The third headline is something we read about almost on a daily basis. Researchers have been analyzing and minutely studying various reports on the relationship between ‘air pollution and hypertension’. Since the 1990s, air pollution levels have been rising all over the world. It has now been found that exposure to sulfur dioxide from fossil-fuels and particulate dust matter in the air even in the short-term besides the long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide associated with vehicular exhaust fumes and discharges from power plants etc. can cause severe risks of hypertension and inflammation of the arteries leading to cardio-vascular diseases.

“Health” is defined as the level of metabolic and functional efficiency of a living organism. In the human context, it reflects the ability of individuals and societies to adapt and cope with situations when faced with physical, social and mental challenges. The World Health Organization (WHO) charter in its definition of health describes it as a state of complete wellbeing in all aspects, not merely an absence of disease or illness. However, there are a wide range of factors that influence human health which are known as ‘determinants of health’. These determinants, as laid out by WHO, include the economic, physical and social environment of an individual as well as his or her behavior and characteristics.

Some of the specific factors known to impact human health from a broad perspective are:

• Biological and genetic influences
• Early child development
• Gender
• Physical and social environments
• Culture
• Personal healthcare practices
• Education and literacy
• Working environment
• Income and social standing

In the modern world, the leading causes that affect human health are daily stress in physical, emotional and mental contexts. Good health is the central factor around which our happiness and wellbeing revolve. In the context of nations, it is also an important factor that determines economic progress as healthy populations are more productive and live longer. In simple words, good health is directly achieved by us when we follow healthy living and eating habits, are physically active and emotionally stable.

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