Globally, health promotion researchers and practitioners are grappling with how to address growing health inequalities for key population groups. Critiques of common health promotion approaches focus on exacerbating health inequalities through interventions designed to serve dominant groups, using deficit models, and paying limited attention to the social, political, economic, and cultural determinants of health behaviors. This implies that much health promotion is continuously informed by traditional public health discourses with the focus on bio-medicalization and individualization, and largely neglecting the broader determinants of health including social and political factors.
Within health promotion, there is a need for formulation and implementation of a theoretical framework that addresses various determinants that lie at the heart of health inequalities. Thompson (2011, p.9) argues that establishing theoretical frameworks that address the root causes of health inequalities and enable the health promotion researchers and practitioners to understand how social systems interact with multiple and diverse identities for diverse individuals within populations. Thompson (2011, p.9) argues that racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism are some of the inequalities experienced within many health settings. Therefore, he provides an important approach through which health professionals can address health inequalities, and help shape the health system and improve the patients’ wellbeing.
Working in partnership is an essential factor in health promotion. Thompson (2011, p.11) argues that although health practitioners are professionals who are obliged to stick to the existing clinical evidence in providing treatment to patients, they ought to understand that patients might have different perceptions of various medical procedures. Therefore, they need to assess and understand the factors that contribute to a particular patient’s health situation before offering any form of medical treatment. Thus, to achieve this, health professionals ought to work in partnership with patients to understand the factors that influence their health conditions. Besides, empowerment is also a critical factor in health promotion. Thompson (2011, p.13) contends that instead of pathologizing patients and regarding their difficulties as some sort of personal inadequacy, health professionals should empower patients to help them appreciate the social roots of the difficulties they may have encountered. The idea behind this is to help the patients to be aware of various determinants that affect their health and be in a better position of handling similar problems in case they encounter them in the future. Thompson (2011, p.13) contends that health professionals should also incorporate anti-discriminatory practices into health care delivery. Incorporating this practice is to ensure that patients are offered equal and better health services regardless of their race, gender, cultural background, socio-economic status, political affiliation, and others.
Failure to address the social, cultural, political, and economic determinants of health in Australia, chronic diseases have had enormous implications on children’s health across the country. Today, a third of Australia’s chronic disease burden amongst the children is caused by factors that are preventable such as passive smoking, unhealthy eating behaviors, and insufficient exercise. Clinical treatment is no longer sufficient in addressing various health issues that children experience in Australia. Healthcare professionals prescribe drugs to Australian children only to watch them become more ill, not because of treatment failure, but due to broader social, economic, cultural, and political factors. Social determinants are some of the most common factors that contribute to adverse issues amongst Australian children including unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and others.
Australian children experience various chronic health problems including obesity. Obesity is one of the most common health issues experienced across all ages in Australia. Among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australia had the eighth highest proportion of children population who were overweight by 2018 (Rogers, 2019, p.106). According to Rogers (2019, p.106), that accounted for roughly 63 percent of the child population, which was obese. Besides, the proportion accounted for approximately 7 percent of Australia’s total disease burden. According to Rogers (2019, p.106), the prevalence of obesity within the children population across Australia has tripled since 1975. Between 2014 and 2017, obesity amongst Australian children had increased by about 10 percent (Rogers, 2019, p.106). Obesity is linked to other chronic diseases such as cancer, blood pressure, sleep disorders, diabetes, high cholesterol, and if this issue if not addressed, it may overwhelm the country’s health system and contribute a high death rate amongst the Australian children.
The broader implications of failing to address various determinants of health amongst the children across the country are significant. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, children with chronic diseases are often absent from classes due to illness compared to those without chronic diseases (Korr, 2016, P.237). This tends to contribute to poor academic performance amongst Australian children with chronic disease. Considering that a high proportion of children population across the country live with various chronic conditions, it is worth noting that the number of well-educated individuals in Australia will significantly reduce. It is argued that many Australian households highly spend to ensure that their children get the best medical treatment. Conversely, taking action in addressing the health gaps that exist as a result of various determinants may lower the costs for individuals and the public purse. A study cited in Australia’s health estimates that if the action were taken on the determinants of health to close the health gap between the most and least disadvantaged individuals across the country, half of the children population could be spared from any form of chronic illness. That would translate to over $2.3 billion in annual hospital costs being saved and approximately 5.3 pharmaceutical benefit scheme prescriptions reduced (Rogers, 2019, p.107) It is estimated that if there is an increase in healthier lifestyles and equal access to better healthcare, then the overall well-being of children across the country would improve.
The cost of inaction on various determinants that contribute to poor health amongst children across Australia is inescapable. Much is at stake and it relies on the federal government’s response by coming up with effective strategies on how to address those social, economic, cultural, and political issues that contribute to tangible health impacts amongst children. In addressing this issue, numerous stakeholders including the government, health systems, and the public have a role to play. However, the solution does not simply relate to spending on healthcare, but it also about spending on other programs such as education to inform the public about the need of engaging in healthy diet behaviors. Besides, the country should spend on other areas of the economy to address various gaps that may lead to health problems amongst Australian children. Addressing this health issue across Australia will also require health professionals to establish an understanding of how various determinants affect children’s health to improve their general well-being (Parajuli & Horey, 2019, p.205). Besides, health professionals across the country will need to establish an understanding of the life course implications of early childhood effects of adverse social, cultural, political, and economic determinants, as well as how they stretch into one’s adult life. Furthermore, health professions should give special consideration to children from needy backgrounds by offering them the best and quality health treatment just like those from least disadvantaged households.
Importance of addressing the Determinants
Health disparities stemming from social, cultural, economic, and political determinants have become a growing target in healthcare across Australia, with various health stakeholders including payers, health professionals, and policymakers turning on how to address those determinants. Addressing the mentioned determinants of child health may help to achieve health equity across Australia. Health equity is when everyone has the opportunity to access better health services, but those who are at high risk are given special consideration. This may help to improve the health status of children from needy backgrounds. While the importance of addressing these determinants of child health across Australia is now clear, it may be challenging to ensure that the needy children receive better treatment due to factors such as corruption in various health settings.
Korr, W. S. (2016). Mental Health Services for Children: Concerns and Challenges. Children Australia, 41(3), 237–239. http://doi.org/10.1017/cha.2016.23
Parajuli, J., & Horey, D. (2019). How can healthcare professionals address poor health service utilisation among refugees after resettlement in Australia? A narrative systematic review of recent evidence. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 25(3), 205. http://doi.org/10.1071/py18120
Rogers, M. (2019). Harnessing the power of cultural health narratives when working with parents of young children. Children Australia, 44(03), 105–109. http://doi.org/10.1017/cha.2019.22
Thompson, N. (2011). Equality and diversity in context. Promoting Equality, 1–21. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-230-34566-9_1