Question One!: Health Issues in Your Own Country

Hello everyone,

Fiirst of all welcome to the project, and we look forward to working with you over the next few months. What we would like to start with is a fairly straightforward question about issues in your own countries. We would like you to discuss these in your trios and then post a joint response as a comment in this blog by the end of the next two weeks.

So here is the quesion.

Compare the major health problems people face in your own country, and how well are they being resolved by our current scientific knowledge, and if they are not what are the barriers?”

There is also a couple of short videos, one of Roger introducing the project and another of me posing the question on our project Facebook page here (although it make take a day or so for your permission to access the site to become active).

We look forward to your answers

Bernie Garrett

8 thoughts on “Question One!: Health Issues in Your Own Country

  1. My comment is that the major health problems in my country are tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, cancers and cardiovascular diseases. the scientific interventions are of help though most of the patients do not get the chance to utilize the technology due to long booking lists. this is one of the major obstacles in the medical field. some procedures are not done in my country so people have to fly to other countries for specialized treatment , which is very expensive and most of the patients do not afford so they die whilst waiting.

    Hellen,
    University of Zambia

  2. In Canada, the major health problem is probably treating chronic illness such as patients with stroke, diabetes, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, etc that cannot be instantly cured. One of the major barriers is that our healthcare system is designed to treat acute illness rather than treating the person as a whole. Another issue is our attitude and stereotype towards patients with chronic illness because many of them are elderly and our society seems to think that they are a financial drain without any prospect of return in the future. In order to decrease chronic illness, our first step would be to break the stereotype and change the way we look at patients with chronic illness and promote more awareness to the public on these issues.

  3. In the Uk we have a national health service (NHS) therefore we get out treatment for free. However you can pay for private health care and this means you can be seen and treated quicker and stay in a private room rather than ward etc In terms of our health problems I believe many are self inflicted and preventable, these include: the increase in obesity in children in the uk. This is leading to modification in equipment for hospitals and more health problems in adult life for those children. Another issue is that the UK has a high drinking culture, especially with binge drinking. This leads to many problems and strains on the NHS even to the extent that hospital beds are being used just to allow someone to sleep off their hangover. To help in these issues I feel we need a change in attitude towards our health and what we can do to prevent these problems. Otherwise these preventable issues will continue to affect the NHS and may cause someone else to not receive the care and treatment that they need.

    Mim Wells
    University of Plymouth

  4. Here is our joint response:
    From the UK
    The most common heath issues I am aware of in the uk today are obesity, dental care, drugs and alcohol abuse and mental health issues.
    My understanding of this issues is that on the whole they are to some degree self inflicted/ self imposed. So I am not sure if science could offer real solutions to this as we possibly need to discover why we do things which we know will be detrimental to our health.
    Of course things like cancer and sexually transmitted infections are also a problem; however I can not comment on the scientific solutions for cancer- possibly money is a factor- and I would say STIs could be grouped with the self imposed issues – or maybe poor education.

    From Canada
    I don’t think our problems are much different than the UK. In fact, we probably share a lot in common because of our public health care systems. If you’ve seen Michael Moore’s film, Sicko, both countries are seen as shining examples of how healthcare should be managed. However, my concern is that healthcare and science, in general, is becoming politicized in Canada – with the current federal government. Unfortunately, it seems like we continue to move backwards in our parliment – as witnessed by our the current stance on climate change. We once had a voice to advocate for climate change reforms but now our government seeks to undermine any efforts to recognize climate change….

  5. Our joint respone

    From the Uk

    I don’t really know about medical stuff really, studying to be a teacher and all, we don’t
    really cover that sort of things!

    There is now healthy schools, which mean they can’t have sweets and things in their
    packed lunches and school meals have to be a certain standard. Also all children get
    piece if fruit at breaks.

    There can’t really be anything done about teenage pregnancy, they don’t prosecute the
    people who have sex with under age teens. They thinking of putting ante-natal class
    in schools so children don’t miss out on school, as not enough teenagers are getting
    the care. Which could be a good or bad thing not really sure, may encourage more to
    get pregnant but will help the unborn baby.

    Problem with teenage pregnancy it is now the “norm” and everyone wants to be normal
    so something drastic has to change for teenage pregnancy to stop!

    From Canada
    The issues that you talked about are really interesting. Schools are beginning to adopt similar healthy eating programs as well as exercise programs in order to fight the health problems relating to unhealthy diets, including obesity and diabetes in British Columbia, Canada. For example, some schools no longer sell pop or chocolate in vending machines, and “junkfood” lunches such as cheeseburgers, fries, and pizza have been removed. Elementary schools now have a daily run added to their physical education class. At a broader level, the media is playing a significant role in promoting healthier lifestyles. Advertisements are frequently found on television citing the need for proper diet, and the importance of physical activity. Some barriers towards solving these issues include finances and the media. Much has been made of the economic downturn being experienced internationally, and is such affecting our province as well. Fresh and healthy foods are far more expensive and time consuming compared to the cheaper prices that fast food or frozen foods offer. Also, while the certain governmental programs are putting forth an effort to promote healthy lifestyles, the number of advertisements for powerful food companies still dominate. The opposing forces are quite counterproductive and thus health promotion has severely hindered.

    Looking specifically into the healthcare setting, the main problem is a significant lack of resources. Having experience in a hospital for a few months now, it is evident the number of staff and space is not adequate. Healthcare workers are left with taxing workloads that often result in less than satisfactory care of their patients, simply because they have no time to provide the proper care required. At times, there are certain tasks that are missed or skipped in order to keep up with the shift’s amount of work. On another note, the saturated space in the hospital has led to increased wait times in the emergency room and tests – among other things – and patients being put into hallways instead of a room as well. There are of course many causes for these issues; however, many place blame on the decreased funding stemming from cuts to the provincial healthcare budget. Hospitals have been forced to lay-off staff in order to remain financially stable enough to actually run the hospital properly. There are groups who have protested against these actions by the provincial government, most notably the government opposition. But ultimately, the increased workload of staff and patients in the hallways are what healthcare authorities have done in order to cope with a loss of funding.

    Mez and Patrick

  6. The UK and Canada share similar major health problems people, which
    include: compounding chronic illness, especially with increasing
    age, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

    Regarding compounding chronic illnesses, we think much of this has to do
    with the fact that our science and medicine has advanced to the point that
    human life is prolonged using technical life-saving practices and
    medications. The trade-off at this point, unfortunately, is prolonged life
    with a reduction in quality. The major barrier here is that the science to
    maintain quality of life (i.e. treatments for chronic conditions in the
    aged such as arthritis, heart problems, kidney and liver problems and
    alzheimers)has not yet caught up to the science that allows us to prolong
    life. For both of us, this is at odds with our value of quality and
    dignity in advanced age and frankly, we would rather not live longer if it
    means living a life needing total care.

    There seems to be a plethora of scientific knowledge on heart disease,
    obesity and diabetes such that the prevention and treatment of these
    illnesses should be easily applied. However, despite scientific advances
    in these areas, what we are lacking is a really hard-hitting public
    awareness campaign. Heart disease, obesity and Type II diabetes can be
    prevented or ameliorated if more people, especially parents and children,
    were aware of how each illness happens and how they can take steps to
    avoid developing each condition. In both the UK and Canada, methods of
    healthy eating have been advertised and encouraged; and detailed food
    labelling exists to help encourage healthy eating practices, and yet the
    rates of these three illnesses continue to rise. The major barrier here is
    prevention.

    Timothy Hussey, UK
    Emily Beinhauer, Canada

  7. In the UK, a very common medical problem is obesity. As far as I am aware, the main concern is children. To solve this problem the government is investing a lot of money in schemes to help educate children and their families about healthy eating and lifestyles rather than trying to change the situation with drastic scientific intervention. They use the scientific information about nutrition and exercise and the effect it has on bodies as a shock tactic to persuade the whole family to change their lifestlyes.
    Many of Canada’s major health problems, which include Heart Disease and Hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, Depression, Cancer, and Respiratory Diseases have been intensively studied from a population health approach. This particular way of examining health reflects the UN’s posits that health in general is linked to socioenvironmental factors, including income, education, social support, access to nutritious food and health care, etc., as well as genetics and other biomedical factors. As such, research on prevention and support for positive outcomes has included the integration of social, environmental, and medical sciences. Science has informed us of statistics on these diseases, has illuminated links between these diseases and socioenvironmental factors in the lives of individuals and populations, and generated with recommendations for prevention and management of these conditions. Science has also brought us medical treatments, including the discovery of insulin in Canada in the 1920s, and promising work in the fields of diabetes, cancer, and HIV treatment at Canadian institutions. However, significant barriers exist to Canadians benefiting from the contributions of science. For one, governments, and thus the politics of the day, decide on which research to fund, and continue funding. A prime example is the safe-injection site in Vancouver, which was a pilot project aimed at reducing harm to IV drug users. When the national government changed hands, it fell out of favor. Secondly, and perhaps most significantly, the socioenvironmental determinants of health found by interdisciplinary health research are barriers to Canadians accessing scientifically-generated health interventions. For example, a patient with HIV is unlikely to adhere to his or her breakthrough drug regimen when he or she cannot access stable housing or read the medication labels because of poor education.

  8. Hi all,

    Great responses and thoughts! Thanks for kicking us off with such great discussion everyone. It seems clear there are some key issues her and interesting differences:

    Resources: In Canada and the UK there are good health service resources on the whole, but still issues with geographical access in Canada. In Zambia there are huge shortages of health resources and lack of provision. People are living longer in the UK/Canada but in Zambia the population is young causing different pressures on health access.

    Disease and Health Issues: Whilst similar conditions are seen in all three countries, and coping with widespraed infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria are significant drains on the limited health service funding. An aging population in Canada and the UK has given rise to an increase in Cancer (the prevelance goes up significantly with age)

    Preventative/Curative: Much of health science to date has foused on curative medicine and treatment of disease, but there is a trend towards primary healthcare and preventative and health promotion strategies in all countries.

    Scientific Contributions to Health: As we see, science and technology can provide solutions to health problems (e.g. immunization) but the social determinents of heath (such as economics, politics and culture) may influence overall health outcomes for countries more.

    As a last thought here was an interesting piece of research from Prof Barry Popkin noting that obesity is outstripping undernourishment globally. See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4793455.stm

    Regards
    Bernie

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