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World Health Problems - Health Policy Briefing Paper

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Question: Prepare a policy brief on the global health issue.

Answer: Addressing the challenges posed by the lifestyle patterns leading to major world health problems

Smoking and Lifestyle: In today's world of competition, people face stress and anxiety on a regular basis. They often yield to smoking, which becomes a part of one's lifestyle. This paper discusses about various lifestyle patterns affecting human health and how smoking is affecting human life in a drastic manner. There have been physical, social and psychological implications of unhealthy lifestyle patterns such as tobacco consumption. The present paper deals with the various policies being formulated for the same and what further measures can be taken up to make the implementation of such policies more effective. Various case studies, as mentioned in the paper, provide an insight about the efforts that can be taken up at various levels to fight against the world health problem of lung cancer. There has also been an attempt to integrate the different factors affecting health.

Lifestyle Patterns.jpg

Table 1: Factors related to Lifestyle patterns

Introduction: Lifestyle can be described as a way to lead life. Since life evolved on earth, there have been natural forces directing the formation of diverse life on earth. The development of human society, a key event in world's history, gave birth to the concept of lifestyle. Lifestyle varies as per requirements, beliefs, culture and economic condition. Technology is an important factor which has been playing a key role in determining our lifestyle for a very long time. As being healthy is not just confined to being disease-free, lifestyle can affect human lives in multiple ways. According to a report by WHO, lifestyle can contribute to 60% of the factors leading to deteriorating quality of life (Gortmaker et al, 2011). Not only physical, but psychological, mental and social problems can also arise from poor lifestyle patterns. It seems like the world is heading towards a well equipped, fast paced future without even considering the extent to which today's lifestyle is affecting human health. Thus, the relationship between human health and lifestyle needs to be considered to an extent so that effective strategies are created to address such issues. Awareness regarding the lifestyle patterns is the pillar of understanding more complex issues.

The people suffering from lifestyle generated health problems can be called to be in a crisis today. It becomes very difficult to first accept the cause and then struggle to work on it. Human society has always been dealing with infectious diseases, epidemics, malnutrition and natural disasters. The lifestyle, generating from technology, high societal pressure, and the ambitious nature to excel in profession adds to it (Glasgow, 2016). It is the high time to understand that there has to be a reason for the rise in number of patients of various chronic diseases. Biological factors do play a role, but it is our environment and the way we are leading our lives that initiate the process of malfunctioning in our bodies. Hypertension, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorders, cardiac diseases, infertility and faster ageing are some of the commonly known health problems but they take deep roots in the lifestyles we have in today's world.

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One major issue with such health problems is the attitude we have towards them. We are so much lost in making a living that we forget to live. We blame genetic factors for our diseases but we tend to forget that even genetic diseases can be dealt effectively, provided we lead a healthy lifestyle. The emergence of social media and virtual communication networks is affecting human minds drastically. It affects the chemical levels in our body, determines our mood and hence actions. It is an addiction that is spreading like a fire and people find themselves helpless when talked about the addiction. Right from the moment we wake up till the time we go to bed, our human body works like a machine, tolerating physical and mental pressures every day, with the desires for vacation and being with family unfulfilled (Sagner, 2016). We become diseased, develop negative vibes by repenting for a number of things we are not able to do, due to our lifestyle. Disease leads to medication that in turn modifies our body to an extent that we believe more in medication than in prevention. We have forgotten about the basic principle of balance that operates in nature and is being severely affected due to the lifestyle patterns. Not only awareness, but strategic plans need to be framed and implemented on a larger scale to ensure that such plans don't remain confined only to a section of the society. Today is the time when we need to address lifestyle related issues otherwise it will seem to have no end in the coming future.

Policies to address lifestyle issues: Israel, in December 2011, launched a national program to address obesity related issues. There was joint planning involved along with budgeting to integrate health with other sectors of the country (Feliu, 2014). It involved the action of both government and non-government organizations to work on food policy, environmental health and rules and regulations for food products (Carter et al, 2011). In another study, Eastern European governments have been able to accomplish a significant control of tobacco consumption by regulating tax revenues on tobacco based products (Mauer-Stender, 2012). ‘Health in All Policies' (HiAP) program has been developed jointly by 16 European countries and WHO to integrate the different aspects related to health in different sectors and to determine the social factors required to bring a change in transforming human health sector. The different case studies reveal that there are numerous factors affecting how lifestyle can transform our lives and understanding their correlation is the key to formulate effective policies and strategies. Education, social and economic status, beliefs and political structure of a country can operate at different levels. The key to addressing the lifestyle related problems is first identifying them at a larger scale and then it requires the initiative from the official bodies to integrate the different spheres for better implementation.

Challenges in addressing lifestyle issues associated with smoking: The first challenge comes from the fact that lifestyle is considered a personal issue. We should not forget that lifestyle has been a part of social practices and it represents our personal, socioeconomic choices. The second challenge comes from the societal expectations from today's youth and the ambitious nature to excel in profession. Today, we are compromising on our physical activity, food, sleep and biological cycles in order to achieve targets which yield monetary value. A carbohydrate rich diet suits our taste buds and fulfills our psychological needs. We are more depending on the products synthesized at the manufacturing plants rather than consuming products grown on plants (Sharma, 2016). Infertility disorders also arise from poor lifestyle choices which compel a couple to opt for artificial techniques. It leads to stress and family pressure. It becomes a vicious cycle which never seems to end.

A comprehensive public health approach: National policy measures need to be framed which regulate the consumption levels and the kind of products being introduced into the markets today. A well-enforced, neutral legislation is required for the same. Promoting physical activity is the key area where efforts can be made at every level. Setting up public health rejuvenation parks can prove to be effective. Efforts to promote physical activity should be reflected in the national policies being made. The WHO is also contributing its support to its member states and provides advocacy on lifestyle patterns.

Healthy lifestyle and healthy nutrition: It is often said that we become what we eat. Our food, our eating patterns affect our health on a daily basis. Malnutrition on one hand and obesity on the other are the major challenges our world is facing. Though we are talking about developing highly nutritive genetically modified food, we are still not able to apply the basic rules of nutrition to our diets (Feliu et al, 2004). Even having a healthy weight does not ensure a healthy body. There has been a rise in deficiency disorders leading to complications in middle age. Osteoporosis and certain kinds of cancer arise from poor nutrition patterns. Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. Tobacco smoke contains around 7000 toxic chemicals which are carcinogenic in nature (Bourgois, 2017).

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Anti-smoking Policy and tobacco control laws: Tobacco related diseases can be controlled to a large extent if the marketing and consumption of tobacco is controlled. A number of assessment surveys have been conducted to measure the spread of tobacco consumption such as calculating the quit ratio of smokers. Anti-smoking campaigns, increasing tax revenue on tobacco products, regulating the norms for the tobacco manufacturers, availability of de-addictive products to help the addicts(Kwak et al, 2017) are some of the measures being adopted in TCS (Tobacco control policies).

Worldwide efforts against tobacco consumption: The issues related to tobacco consumption were escalated by the 39th World Health Assembly which met in May 1986 and aimed to improve the condition by 2000(Kasmel et al, 2017). According to a study, tobacco industry spends about 2000 million dollars in advertisements. Controlling such advertisements will be the key factor in regulating tobacco use. Health education projects and public awareness are also essential for better implementation. Efforts are being made to control the effect of secondhand smoke as well. Policies like banning public smoking and smoke control systems at workplaces have been well implemented in countries like United States (Ting, 2016).

Policy implications and Conclusion: There has been a significant decrease observed in tobacco consumption in countries regulating the norms at a larger scale. Korea led government achieved a significant decrease in tobacco consumption through the Health Promotion Act implemented in 1995(Arumaa, 1989). Estonia has also been able to implement anti-tobacco policy by developing effective legislation regarding the same (Kepler,1999).Thus it has been observed that initiatives never fail, if taken seriously. Lifestyle can affect our lives to a large extent, and competition and societal pressures make people yield to addictions such as smoking which in turn deteriorates quality and life and reduces life span. More stringent policies need to be adopted, considering the ill effects of tobacco consumption and awareness campaigns need to be conducted at national and international levels to educate people about healthy lifestyle patterns. The effect of smoking on human health is multi-factorial and affects the psychological and physical well being of the person, apart from alienating him or her from the society. Education sector can play a significant role in the same, by preparing the youth of the country to initiate creating solutions for such problems. Policies can prove to be effective only when they are framed considering every section of the society and the implications need to be measured before to estimate the success. They can bring a social change provided they are based on authentic research and are not profit driven. One should not forget that the ultimate aim of formulating any policy lies in the betterment of the society as a whole. Policy makers and their policies can influence the social structure and functioning of the society to a large extent and feedback from the society is the major source for improving the formulation process.

Key Points: • WHO reports 60% of the factors deteriorating quality of human life, arising from lifestyle patterns.

• Severe psychological implications have been observed all over the world.

• Lifestyle choices being described as the root causes of the dreadful chronic diseases.

• The irony lies in the fact that the society tries to adopt a lifestyle in order to improve quality of life but it goes in vain, affecting human life adversely.

• The real challenge remains in continuing the healthy lifestyle patterns in today's world of cut-throat competition.

• People's attitude towards lifestyle choices along with the advent of technology further worsens the conditions.

• Strategic planning along with large scale implementation needs to be done in order to bring changes in the world health patterns.

• Medical professionals, dieticians, government officials and product developers will be the key players in bringing the change.

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