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The Comprehensive Overview on the Concepts, Principles and Applied Theories in Health Economics: Healthy Life

Updated on April 23, 2010
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Christopher F. Bueno is currently the Dean of the College of Education, University of Northern Philippines, Vigan City.

      This chapter in health economics provides the comprehensive overview about healthy life. It focuses on the study of the “Quality of Life” within the underlying causes of health problems that provide the adherence of the quality health care to the populace. In addition to this information, this chapter provides an extensive study on the definition of health along the emotional outlook of life in the term “happiness”. As part of the comprehensive study of health economics the concept on “health” along the performance dimension of the Human Development Index (HDI) is presented to further analyzed the extent of its usage in health care programs and services. Finally, the healthy lifestyle and health-related quality life approach through the “Quality of Life’ (QOL), and “Disability Adjusted Life Year” (DALY) are presented to understand the possible deviance on health as a result of unhealthy life style. This extensive information may be used later in the study on the applied theories of health economics.

1. The underlying causes of health problems which ultimately influence in the activities and attitudes of the human society.

2. The unhealthy social life style in the modern society that produces degenerative and infectious diseases to the entire populace.

3. The prevention and control of the health related problems in the community that is directed to the adherence of quality health care.

4. The comparative terms for “health” and “happiness” that complement to the emotional outlook of life and the response to the physical, mental and social well-being.

5. The performance dimension of “Health” in the Human Development Index (HDI).

6. The healthy lifestyle and health-related quality life approach through the “ Quality of Life’ (QOL), and “Disability Adjusted Life Year” (DALY).

     In the health services, those who are actively involved in the medication and treatment are the physicians, nurses and other medical personnel. On the health care facilities provide the needed logistic supports for the medication, treatment and recovery of patients. There are underlying causes or the root cause of this health problem that may influence the health status. These are the common factors on the underlying causes of health problems which ultimately influence in the activities and attitudes of the human society towards health.

1. Social Factors .The social occasions and parties produce high intake of alcohol and cholesterol fats. The lack of sleep, smoking cigarette, high concentrated beverages that produce acids and overdose of chemical preservatives may provide the harmful health effect to the body. The social activities may result to the creation of illnesses and diseases such as cancer, TB, acid reflux, and etc.

2. Cultural Factors . The emerging cultural media influence on fashion, entertainment and other modern tradition affected the basic needs of the people. The modern living provides the new outlook to shelter in its interior and exterior design, the clothing that produced fashion style, and the canned goods that produce high levels of preservative chemicals. This may produce health consequences from the popularly known illness called CANCER.

3. Economic Factors. The corporate investments and marketing enterprise provided new attractive products that may produce substantial chemicals for the body. Those who do not have money and are considered poor may have the problems of sustenance, health treatment and sanitation including malnutrition. The middle class have the problem of overweight, high level of cholesterol, chemical exposure on toxic substances of products.

4. Technological factors. The use of modern technology exposed the human society on radiations that are harmful to the body. The physical atrophy may create health problems to the body.

     There are the significant long term objectives identified by the World Health Organization (2003) on the concept of “Health for All”. These are the healthy living by a population educated in health problems and the appropriate responses; a healthy environment providing shelter, food, water and sanitation, with good economic opportunities and freedom from the fear of violence; and an accessible, rational and comprehensive system of preventive treatment, care and rehabilitation services.

Unhealthy Social Life Style in the Modern Society

      The modern society has affected the new kind of life that produces degenerative and infectious diseases to the entire populace. These are the highly active preservatives and fats of commercial goods; social vices such as smoking cigarette, drinking alcohol and beverages; lack of physical exercise and the exposure of environmental hazards.

1. The nutritional consumption on corporate commercialized products that is full of chemical preservatives and excessive cholesterol and fats.

2. The social lifestyle vices on smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol and substance abuse as part of modern culture in going to bar, disco houses and parties.

3. The lack physical activities and exercise of the children, teenagers and professionals as a result on the use of computers, cellphones, television and internet at the home, school and office.

4. The occupational and environmental hazards (such as chemical, toxic and radioactive exposures) in the office or industrial factories that may cause cancer.

5. The emergencies, accidents, disasters and injuries as consequence of climate change, transport hazards, and the unhealthy social life style.

The Prevention and Control of the Health Related Problems in the Community

      In health economics, the adherence of the quality health care intervention are directed to the prevention, rehabilitation, treatment and medical of certain illnesses or diseases in the locality.

1. The presence of communicable and communicable diseases is the common public health problems that provide specific information on the current health outcome on the morbidity and mortality rate in the society. The health services on communicable and infectious diseases provide the common basis of health programs and projects for the prevention, control, treatment and medication. There are the emerging diseases that affected worldwide such as Avian Flu, SARS, HIV/AIDS, and Cancer. The common diseases are TB, Influenza, Hepatitis, Pneumonia, Rabies, Measles, Chicken Fox and Dengue.

2. The lifestyle related diseases are the human related activities that consumed harmful toxic chemicals from commercialized products, smoking tobacco, drinking liquor and beverages, excessive consumption of unhealthy fats . The commercialization of the food products with high content of food preservatives, excessive fats and other chemical components produce unhealthy food for the society. The presence of fast food centers and restaurant brings the new social taste of the professionals have accumulated excessive fats by the long years of work in the urban areas. In addition to that the people are more involve in nightlife by going to the bar , disco houses and even parties wherein excessive food including the consumption of beverages, liquors, and cigarettes. These are the common degenerative diseases acquired the excessive consumption of unhealthy foods that might result to hypertension, heart or cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and even cancer.

     The internal organs such as the kidney, lungs, stomach are affected by this unhealthy life commonly affected by the high consumption of beverages, liquors and cigarette. There is alarming rate on the rise of cancer in the internal organs of the patient. The chemotherapy has re-invented the medical intervention for the cancer patients. Based on this high incidence of cancer patients the life expectancy in the urban areas reduces at an alarming rate as there is a need to establish more hospitals, medical centers and pharmaceutical companies including medical personnel. The lifestyle diseases are cardiovascular related diseases (hypertension, heart diseases, and stroke) cancer, pulmonary diseases, and diabetes.

3.The material wealth is the prime goal to achieve the quality life for the teenagers and professionals. This is the result of the modern media and entertainment industries that produce films and movies about crime, violence, sexual desires, fashion and love of consumer goods. Likewise, the modern technologies (such as the use of computers, internet, cellphones and TV) have influence the social lifestyle that brings the new cultural adaptation by the teenagers and professionals. These social exposures on this “age of commercialism” and the desire of material wealth have affected the mental development of the people. There are increasing cases of mental illnesses that affected by the entire society. These are common psychological and psychiatric disorders which include depressive disorder; bipolar disorder; somatoform disorder; stress-related disorder; schizophrenia, personality disorder and other psychotic disorders that are reflected on the emotional and behavioral distress in family, school, office and even in the community .

      In the study of health care, there are different components to know about the broader concept of health which is called wellness. Based on the WHO definition of health, there are the three variables to know about healthy individual these are mental, social and physical well being. There are varied components of wellness in the study of health care, however let me point out important wellness variables for healthy life:

1)Physical Wellness. It is the healthy condition of the biological and physiological response of the body that is free from any kind of illness and disease. The maintenance of healthy body in physical wellness is done through physical fitness and proper nutrition. The physical fitness is the biological and physiological balance to deliver a healthy life style that is free from health problems such as fatigue, stress and other physical deterioration of the body. While, nutrition is the need to maintain adequate nutrition to support the nutritional needs of the body such as calcium, carbohydrates, protein, and other vitamins to maintain the body tissues.

     To understand further the physical wellness read this article “Physical and Nutrition: Its Health and economic Implications to the Concept of Human Wellness”

2)Mental Wellness : The normal mental condition of the individual to acquire and learn information in order to understand the cognitive thought in the interaction of the society. The intellectual normal capacity of the brain through the nervous system is to absorb information by understanding and learning the simple to complex knowledge including abstract reasoning on the different fields of the educational endeavors of the society. The capacity to learn, acquire and understand information and knowledge provides the intellectual wellness of the person which is also called “mental stability”. The intellectual ability is categorized based on the different educational interest such in the field of arts and sciences, language and humanities, technology and electronics.

3. Emotional Wellness – This is the normal psychological and behavioral capacity of the individual to interact with the other people in the society. The usual concern in this aspect is the mental or emotional disorders which may result to social deviance in the communicating and interacting with the people. The medical and health profession supports the recovery and prevention by these mental disorders through the psychologists and physicians. They medically treat mentally disturbed patients such as depressive disorder; bipolar disorder; somatoform disorder; stress-related disorder; schizophrenia, personality disorder and other psychotic disorder.

4. Social Wellness. It is the normal capacity of the individual to communicate and interact in the family, community, and different groups to maintain harmonious relationships in the society. The individual is part of the cultural groups who maintains tradition, norm, mores, belief, fads and other social ideologies.

Health and Happiness

      The WHO definition of health may further be studied in the context on the life experience about the term happiness. This possibly raise a question on this “Do you think health and happiness are distinct concepts?” Of course, the answer is “Yes”, the principle behind this distinction is you can also be happy even though you’re not healthy. You may have cancer, TB, flu or any kind of diseases but you are still happy. The problem about illness and disease may bring the physical body in pain, fatigue, and other forms of physical deterioration.

   Not only health and happiness are distinct but also their relationship is neither fixed nor constant. Having suffered from a serious disease is likely to make one less happy, but not having the same does not necessarily amount to happiness. Common existential problems – involving emotions, passions, personal values, and questions on the meaning of life – can make one less happy or even overtly uncomfortable, but they may not be leading to health problems.

      The term “happiness” connotes the emotional response on the positive outlook of life regardless on the physical response of the body. There is always complementary process in the state of being happy because health defines in the broadest sense on the physical, mental and social well-being. Therefore these are conditions to know about happiness and health: (1) the term happiness is in respect to the emotional outlook of life. These are the emotional actions that describe the term “happiness” such as the term of joy, glad, cheer, delight, smile and other positive actions; and (2) the term health is derived from all the dimensions of healthy life such as social, emotional, physical and mental wellness.

   Another point of inquiry about health other than “happiness” is the relation to the economic growth of the country. The World Bank through the World Development Report (1993) explained good health as a crucial part of well-being. It further asserted that spending on health can also be justified on purely economic grounds. Improved health contributes to economic growth in four ways: (1) reduces production losses caused by worker illness; (2) it permits the use of natural resources that had been totally or nearly inaccessible because of disease; (3) it increases the enrollment of children in schools and makes them better able to learn; and (4) it makes alternative uses of resources that would otherwise have to be spent on treatment.

    Let me elaborate further by this report to justify the importance of health as an engine of economic growth and development. The physical fitness of the worker is so important in the corporate world. This is the reason why there is always thorough medical examination to evaluate the degree of physical fitness for the workers. They need to work 8 hours a day on varied occupational physical and mental activities which can only be done on a healthy body. The mental alertness may innovate way to improve the system of work that may increase the level of organizational productivity. The physical balance is needed to maintain the rigidity of physical activities in the work. Based on healthy life may provide a better source of income for the family.

     The life threatening disease as identified in the morbidity and mortality rate may impose the concern of “Improved Quality Life”(IQL) and happiness. Generally, we cannot be happy if we are not healthy. When we encounter physical pain, emotional depression or stress, discomfort on possible signs of illness contributed much to the deprivation of the word “ happiness”.

     In health economics, the human development finds it acceptable basis to study the term “ Quality of Life”. In the point of view for the health care, it refers on the individuals’ worth from the dimension of mental ( including emotional stability), physical and social well being. In other words, this is the healthy life on all dimensions of human development.

The Performance Dimension of “Health” in the Human Development Index (HDI)

     There are important dimensions on human development that we can use to expound the study of quality of life through the “Human Development Index”(HDI). This has been utilized by the United Nations to provide information about the Human Development Index (HDI) of a country. It specifically provides human development measures on the health, education and economic status of the people. These are the important social and economic services information that can be taken to the country. It has provided the development assistance by the international government agencies with the complementary equity of the state to upgrade and enhance these 3 aspects of human development.

    The 3 basic aspects of human development are health, knowledge and standard of living. The performance dimension is

1) Health. It refers to the holistic healthy life of individual which is measured by the life expectancy. The health indicators are measured by the age (40,50,60,70 and above) through its life expectancy. This is also compared from the gender ( male and female) life expectancy. It should be noted that life expectancy is affected by various health factors such as nutritional intake or diet, physical fitness or exercise, genetic disorders, environmental exposures , personal vices on alcohol, cigarette and other unhealthy life styles

2) Knowledge. It refers functional literacy and the participation rate in the educational level (primary, secondary and tertiary education) through the gross enrolment rate. This is analyzed in terms of the adult literacy and functional literacy.

3) Standard of living. It is translated in the earned income through the GDP per capita in purchasing parity. The poverty level may reflect how much income of the family needs in food, clothing, shelter, education, health and others. The desired standard of living is attributed by the ability of the family : to consume enough food in complete meals, nutrients intake, and other desired food consumption; to buy the necessary clothing such as shirts, pants, underwear, and etc.; to live in a decent home with complete amenities and appliances; to educate the children in all levels of education; to confine the members of the family in well equip hospitals and being able to pay the medical bills; and other related activities that the family needs money to support a decent life.

     The Human Development Index (HDI) provides a standard measurement to analyze the performance dimension index that is expressed by the value between 0 to 1 which is calculated by the following indicators:

1. On health, the life expectancy at birth which is computed per year at maximum values of 85 and the minimum of 25.

2. On knowledge, this is computed based on adult literacy rate and combined gross enrolment rate in percent with a maximum value of 100.

3. On standard of living, this is computed by the per capita (PPP$) with a maximum value of 40,000.

     The dimension index for human development is calculated by the HDI indicators from the actual value less the minimum value to be divided by the standard maximum value less to the minimum value.

DIMENSION INDEX= actual value-minimum value/ maximum value-minimum value

     The HDI standard indicators are presented below to analyze the given value for life expectancy at birth, adult literacy rate, combined gross enrolment and GDP per capita.

INDICATORS (VALUE) maximum minimum

life expectancy at birth (years) 85 25

Adult literacy rate (in percent) 100 0

Combined gross enrolment rate (in percent) 100 0

GDP per capita (PPP$) 40,000 100

     In health economics, the Human Development Index (HDI) provides important tool in macro-economics to identify the priority areas of the national government to address the immediate concern particularly in the health of the people and the standard of living.

     In health, the falling life expectancy rate may mean high incidence and prevalence of degenerative and infectious diseases. This can be traced from the health data on morbidity and mortality rate. As of now the current emergence of cancer, heart diseases, TB and other infectious diseases may have the possibility to lower the life expectancy rate. As a result of this problem, the national government provides a comprehensive health programs to prevent, control and treat those who are affected by its territorial units, on gender and age, and other socio-demographic indicators in the country.

The Healthy Lifestyle and Health-Related Quality Life Approach

     The human development on health may be studied further by the health-related quality life approach that may now improve the life expectancy and reduce the concern on the morbidity rate and mortality rate. This goes back to the definition of health on the complete physical, mental and social well being with the absence of the diseases.

  1. “Quality of Life” (QOL) is the main goal on universal health as the people experienced a “healthy life”.
  1. “Disability Adjusted Life Year” (DALY) is usually measured by the burden of specific disease acquired in a lifetime. There are other measures to provide “Year of Life Lost” (YLL) and “Year Lived with Disability” (YLD). These are the results of the unhealthy life styles such as smoking cigarettes, excessive drinking of wines, stress, fatigue, and lack of exercise which are commonly identified as the source of illness such as cancer, heart disease, TB, diabetes and others.

      The healthy life through “Quality of Life” provides the necessary adjustments of life expectancy level of an individual. These are the positive response to provide the “Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) as a result of clean living:

1. Proper body nutrition through a complete meal, adequate intake of well balance food. The high consumption of leafy green vegetables, fish and fruits with moderate consumption on meat products.

2. Regular exercise and other physical fitness activities to enhance the well balance energy, power, strength, and endurance on all body systems.

3. The avoidance of the personal vices on social occasions and parties on the unhealthy activities through excessive smoking of cigarettes and drinking alcohol.

4. The overdoing of physical and mental activities in the office, school, community and at home that may result to less hours of sleep, stress, fatigue and other healthy results .

5.The exposures of environmental hazards, toxic chemicals and radioactive content of modern accessories such as appliances, computers , cellphones and etc.

    The unhealthy life style may result to health deviations such as the possibility of physical disabilities due to cancer, heart diseases, pulmonary diseases and other degenerative diseases.

    The consequence of this may result to adjustments of shorter life through the “Disability Adjusted Life Year” (DALY) that is measured by the burden of the specific disease acquired because of unhealthy life style. This may shorten the life span particularly those who are being medical diagnose on cancer because of the prolong personal vices on excessive smoking of cigarettes and drinking alcohol. “Years of Life Lost”

    In health economics, the provision of medical cares may provide specific medical costs such as physician fees, medical diagnosis fees, and users’ fees on medical facilities and equipment. The patient needs to buy medicines or drugs for the medication and treatment of the illness.

     The standard of living is also affected by the medical treatment of the patient because they need huge amount of money to pay all the medical bills. The poor patient can afford to be confined in the private hospital or medical center. So the public hospital may do the trick in the medication and treatment. However, the common problem on health care in the less developed countries is the dismal state of public health service sue to lack of medical supplies and equipment, poor sanitation, no enough medical personnel and the worst part is the corruption that has existed in the institution.


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