According to the World Health Organization, the “determinants of health” are the factors that influence our health and well-being. These include:
-Our genetic make-up
-The environment we live in
-Our social and economic circumstances
-The choices we make about our lifestyles
Each of these factors can impact our health, both positively and negatively. For example, our genes may make us more susceptible to certain diseases, but we can offset this by living a healthy lifestyle. However, poverty and social exclusion can lead to poor health, even if we have good genes.
The earliest years of a child’s life are crucial for their health and development. A large body of research has shown that the first five years are critical for developing the brain and the nervous system.
A child’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional health during these years will profoundly affect their future health and well-being. And this is the reason why ensuring that all children have the best possible start in life is essential.
According to the WHO, the three most important determinants of health are:
1. The social and economic environment
2. The physical environment
3. The individual’s health behaviors
4. The individual’s biology and genetics
The social and economic environment includes the family, the community, and the society within which a child grows up.
Although several factors can influence a child’s health and development, these four are the most important.
Let’s explore this in detail.
1. Social and economic environment
The social and economic environment plays a significant role in determining a child’s health. Poverty, poor housing, and lack of access to healthcare and education can all harm a child’s health. There’s even a correlation during prenatal and early life between low birth weight and cognitive impairments later in life.
Despite these challenges during birth, a baby’s brain has a unique ability to adapt and grow. However, this growth can become a hindrance by poverty and poor nutrition. However, birth injuries can also lead to cognitive impairments. For instance, a lack of oxygen during childbirth can damage the brain and lead to cerebral palsy. However, in case of malpractice or negligence, it is vital to seek the help of a birth injury lawyer to get the compensation you and your family deserve. To learn more about this or how to seek justice, you can read about it at childbirthinjuries.com or speak to a birth injury lawyer.
The social and economic environment is vital for health because it can influence a child’s access to healthcare, nutrition, education, and other factors. Another possible reason is that poverty can lead to stress, which can lead to health problems. For instance, one study found that pregnant women who experience poverty are more likely to have babies with low birth weights. And this means they’re also more likely to experience health problems later in life.
2. Physical environment
As we learned in the previous section, the social and economic environment can profoundly affect a child’s health. But the physical environment is also essential. Poor air quality, for example, can lead to respiratory problems.
Lead poisoning can cause brain damage. Unfortunately, many children worldwide don’t have access to clean water or safe housing. And this can put them at risk for diseases and health problems. And that’s why it’s so important to provide aid to countries that need it. However, the crux of the problem is that the social and economic environment often determines these environments. For instance, poverty can lead to poor housing and unsafe working conditions. So, addressing the social and economic environment is vital for improving the physical environment. How does it impact the children?
As you can see, the social and economic environment and the physical environment are linked. And both play a role in determining a child’s health. So, improving both these factors is vital to give children the best possible start in life.
3. Individual health behaviors
Individual health behaviors also play a role in determining a child’s health. For instance, smoking during pregnancy can lead to health problems for the baby. Also, using drugs and alcohol can negatively impact a child’s health.
Not getting enough exercise can lead to obesity, a risk factor for many diseases. So, it’s essential to encourage healthy behaviors from a young age. And this starts with parents and caregivers modeling these behaviors. Children learn from what they see. So, if parents smoke, the child is more likely to smoke. If parents eat healthy foods, the child is more likely to eat healthy foods. Of course, many factors can influence a child’s health.
4. The individual’s biology and genetics
The social and economic environment includes the family, the community, and the society within which a child grows up. The physical environment includes where a child lives, school, and plays. It is also imperative because it can shape a child’s health. Individual health behaviors are the things that a person does that can affect their health. And the individual’s biological factors and genetics are the things that make a person who they are. So, as you can see, many factors play a role in determining a child’s health. And it’s important to consider all these factors when working to improve children’s health. The most important thing is to start early. That’s because the first few years of a child’s life are crucial to their development. And if we can give children a healthy start, we can set them up for a lifetime of good health.
As you can see, multiple factors play a role in determining a child’s health. However, there must be a concerted effort to address all the factors that play a role in a child’s health. That’s because no single aspect works in isolation. They all work together to impact a child’s health. And that’s why it’s essential to consider all of these factors when working to improve children’s health.