Health inequalities and illnesses result from variations in social conditions in which people are born, live, grow and work. The case study of Brook Road has illustrated some of the health inequalities that exist due to differences in ethnicities, age, gender, income, and social classes. The case study consists of three families in Brook Road and their encounters with other health inequalities. Therefore, this paper will demonstrate an understanding of patterned inequalities of health and illnesses and their relations to social, economic, and environmental developments in the U.K. with reference to the Brook Road Case Study. The range of social, personal, economic, and environmental factors tend to influence individual health status.
The Impact of Social, Economic and Environmental Developments to Changes in Morbidity and Mortality in the U.K.
Mortality and morbidity between various social classes in the U.K. vary significantly. There is a social gradient in the lifespan since the people living in areas with low deprivation have a high life expectancy compared to individuals in most deprived regions within the U.K. The social, economic, and environmental developments greatly influence the quality of health care outcomes among individuals (Scambler, 2012). These are considered the social determinants of health that affect a wide range of quality of life, health functioning, risks, and outcomes. The economic, social, and environmental developments have increased the life expectancy in the U.K. since the 19th century. Therefore, this has led to a decline in morbidity and mortality rates. For instance, an increase in higher education, homeownership, and shift towards a service-oriented economy and a more sustainable and individualistic culture has led to significant changes in the quality of health.
Among individuals living in less deprived areas, the developments have led to affordable housing, medical care, and healthy choices, thus reducing mortality and morbidity (Panova et al., 2012). In highly deprived areas, social class inequalities have deprived the benefits of economic, social, and environmental developments. They have encountered negative impacts of economic, social, and environmental changes, which have led to aging, climate change, and housing issues. Increased unemployment has been linked to elevated rates of morbidity and mortality (Scambler, 2012). These have greatly impacted the achievement of better health, thus leading to negative changes in mortality and morbidity in the U.K. in deprived areas.
Regarding the case study, Brook Road is a run-down part of the large midlands town with residents of different ethnicities, social classes, and ages. The residents that live at the top end of the street belong to the high social class while the lower end near the petrol station and shops belongs to individuals with low-income lives. The residents at the upper end have things quieter while the lower end complains of traffic and congestion. Shops and factories are located on the lower end leading to negative impacts on the social, economic, and environmental developments. However, individuals from the high end have a quieter life with no factories or shops but have a park that offers a large green open space. This indicates the variation in social, economic, and environmental developments, leading to differences in the changes of morbidity, mortality, and quality of health among individuals within the same society but in different social classes.
Patterned Inequalities in Health and Illness
Health inequalities are avoidable and undeserved differences among individuals’ health conditions across the population and among particular population groups (Bleich et al., 2012). The patterned inequalities in illness and health are determined by measures of income, deprivation, ethnicity, gender, and risks (McDonough, Worts, and Sacker, 2010). The behavioral factors and lifestyle do not shape the health and well-being but the wide variety of economic, social, and environmental factors such as housing, poverty, education, ethnicity, and environment. Patterned inequalities in illness and health occur as differences in healthy conditions and distribution of the social determinants of health between varying population groups (McDonough, Worts, and Sacker, 2010). These influence the behavior, choices, and opportunities that are available to them.
Patterned inequalities include variations in health access by region, socio-economic position, ethnicity, and gender. Considerably, there is growing evidence that the patterns of health inequalities in the U.K. result from social class inequalities. These include variations in wealth, income, and education. For instance, an analysis of social inequalities in the U.K. indicates that males living in highly deprived areas have a low life expectancy than those living in less deprived regions (McDonough, Worts, and Sacker, 2010). Therefore, unequal sharing of social determinants has contributed to health disparities. For instance, poverty has been damaging to families, children, and communities. Income inequality and deprivation have been linked to poor well-being and poor health outcomes. Most individuals living in poverty have health-related issues and low life expectancy due to poor housing, adverse effect on mental, physical health, and well-being.
Employment has a direct impact on the social, physical, and economic well-being of families. Unemployment lowers the mental health, physical health, and psychological well-being of individuals. Poor quality housing has risked the lives of individuals due to poor conditions, and overcrowding which greatly affects the well-being and health of individuals (McCartney, Collins and Mackenzie, 2013). Education has also been linked to health inequalities and patterns of life expectancy. Poor educational attainment has been linked to poor health patterns. Lack of education is linked to behaviors such as excessive use of alcohol, smoking, and poor diet among the deprived populations. They engage in unhealthy behaviors, which increase their health and well-being risk.
In the case study, the patterned inequalities in health and illness are shaped by the social classes. The upper and lower social classes have different lifestyles that impact the health of the individual families. For instance, Bradley’s family belongs to the low social class since they live near the factories, petrol stations, and shops. The middle class is represented by Khan’s family, which has money to cater to daily needs. The Hunter family belongs to the high social class with a modern lifestyle. The social class and income of the three families determine how they encounter health challenges. Bradley’s family is experiencing more health problems as compared to the other two families. Some health conditions include diabetes, stress, arthritis, and mental illness, while the middle-class family is experiencing health issues such as stress and asthma. The Hunter’s family is only experience issues linked to blood pressure which increase their stress levels. The three families are good indicators of health inequalities in society and how they are defined and vary depending onan individual’s socio-economic statusl.
Protected Characteristics and Health Inequalities
Protected characteristics include age, sex, gender, race, religion, or belief. Age has been one of the greatest causes of health inequalities in the country. Considerably, age has a direct impact on the influence of individuals’ well-being and health. Health inequalities have persisted in old age as individuals’ health conditions accumulate from life-long ethnic, socio-economic, and gender-based influences (Nettleton, 2020). Aging can be described based on cognitive and biological development such as adulthood, childhood, and old age. Recent estimates have indicated a total of 1.6 million pensioners live on or below the poverty line in the United Kingdom (Nettleton, 2020). Most of these individuals have been classified as living in severe poverty and high health risk. The poverty risks have not been equally distributed since socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals remain so until their old age. The health inequalities due to age are affected by savings rates, unequal incomes, pension rights, and access to the property. Evidence indicates that older individuals have encountered health inequalities due to the attitudes of health professionals and healthcare services within the U.K. Discrimination has been a greater part of everyday life in the United Kingdom. Generally, the older population tends to receive poor healthcare standards in both their homes and care homes.
The case study of Brook Road has analyzed the lives of people that are living in three houses and how their health conditions vary depending on their age. The Bradleys’ are an aging couple living near the factories and shops at the lowest end of the street. The couple has been together for over 60 years, living in number 4 Brook Road. Bradley’s family has been facing environmental issues that have led to mobility problems such as arthritis. Health inequalities such as diabetes have been highly linked to environmental influences such as unhealthy eating behaviors. For instance, Iris, who is 87 years is fairly overweight and is experiencing uncontrolled type 2 diabetes since she rarely visits the diabetes clinic, which is far-off. She gets to the nearby shops but buys quick and inexpensive food instead of quality and healthy foods. This has greatly increased her health risks. Watching television has been a great contributor to negative health outcomes such as stress and aggression. Bert spends all day watching television and smoking cigarettes to relieve their stressful life. The social, economic, and environmental issues have damaged their health and disturbed the health patterns of Bradley’s family.
Theories of Health and Welfare Inequalities and Their Impact on the Development of Health Policies.
The Case Study of Brook Road illustrates the theories of artefact, social selection, cultural factors, and behaviors and how they impact health and welfare inequalities. Health inequalities in the three families have been measured by their social status and realities of lived experience within Brook Road. The social selection theory clearly explains why social class creates variations in health status in Brook Road. The Bradley’s family and Huntley’s family have health inequalities that exist due to their social status.
The process of developing health policies is complex as it entails political, legal, ethical, financial, social and ethical considerations. The healthcare policy development focuses on the choices between assessment of data and competing priorities. The formation of the health policies has to cope with the current demands in the public health sector. For instance, the policy forming process has to put into consideration different values and priorities in the health system. The natural selection, artefact, structural and behavioral theories have influenced the development of healthcare policies since they cover varying societal positions. The theories are used in understanding, planning and explaining the heath behavior as well as identifying, developing and implementing interventions. The health policies typically draw from one or more theories (Scambler, 2012).
The Artefact theory explains that health and welfare inequalities occur due to natural conditions in which an individual is born, grows, works, and lives. Therefore, the existence of the health inequalities is simply the measurement system used. The artefact theory has enabled policy developers to focus on class inequalities in development of health policies. For instance, the artefact theory may influence how health policy developers focus on structural changes to cultural, economic and environmental condition to reduce health inequalities.
The selection theory argues that people with ill health increase in low social status conditions while fit and healthy individuals exist in advanced social class (Scambler, 2012). The cultural explanation of health inequalities helps in identification of most relevant mechanism that underlie between socioeconomic conditions in health policy development. The health policy development is directed at socioeconomic status to improve the well-being of the society.
The behavior theory explains that certain behaviors such as diet, smoking, and diet are the major causes of health inequalities. The models of interventions in health policies have focused on individual behaviors for primary intervention. The health policies have focused on individual level approaches and behavior change strategies.
Cultural factors and behaviors have greatly influenced the health conditions of the families. The cultural norms at the societal level can lead to health inequalities. Health policy developers have focused on cultural norms and social values in development of policies and guidelines that improve public health. The theories behind the health inequalities offer a full explanation of the reasons for the existence of health inequalities.
Understanding a population’s health condition and the social determinants of health can facilitate the development of health policies and measures to close the gaps of health inequalities within the United Kingdom. The U.K’s approach in addressing health inequalities is characterized by explanations of health inequalities by different political parties. For instance, the Labour government developed the Black Report on reducing the health inequalities which as rejected by the Conservative government that claimed that the proposals were too costly. The current U.K government is committed to reducing the health inequalities. The government has begun to develop and implement policies that will address the wider determinants. The National Health Services has been publicly funded to reduce health inequalities in the UK.
Social, economic, and environmental circumstances have led to patterned inequalities in health and illness. The case study of Brook Road has demonstrated how social, environmental, and economic conditions are fundamental causes of health inequalities and illnesses. People from different social classes have different life experiences that lead to disparities in health conditions. The U.K. government should focus on the different theories of health inequalities and illnesses such as artefact, social selection, cultural factors, and behaviors to develop health policies and interventions that will address the health inequalities within the U.K.