The World Health Organization currently defines health as a ‘state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (WHO, 1948). This is known as the biopsychosocial model and encourages health practitioners to look at health as a whole, ensuring that individuals are well-equipped to lead a full life in the physical, mental and economic spheres. This has not always been the predominant measure of health, however. Prior to this report, the biomedical definition of health held precedence, and this suggested that health need only be the absence of disease. This is not always the case, however, as an individual may state that they are healthy in biomedical terms, but their social class or lifestyle may cause them to be more susceptible to certain diseases or even just to have a lower quality of life than another individual. This essay aims to explain how the success of the NHS has caused it to have more problems – the successful nature of the service has allowed people to live for such a long time that they now require more expensive medical care for longer than ever before. The NHS believed that it would reduce the need for provision, but instead has enhanced it.
There are several aspects of an individual that determine the standard of health he/she can enjoy. These range from the unalterable – age, sex, and genetic factors, for example – to the areas in which health promotion aims to improve and which should not be an issue in the sphere of health – lifestyle, housing, and social class. Age is evidently a determinant of health, in that the chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease) that have come to define the modern West occur increasingly with age. Age is also generally associated with being slower and weaker and as such the elderly may believe themselves to be in ‘suboptimal health’ (Ubel et al., 2005, p1054) and be more inclined to seek healthcare.