Barriers to Health
Although we all need to take responsibility for our personal health, there are factors that can make a healthy lifestyle difficult. They include:
- Family Barriers
- Health System Barriers
- Community Barriers
By the example parents and older siblings set, they can be a force for good or bad health.
Studies show that although genetics may be one factor that influences health, vicarious learning from our family often tips our health choices one way or the other. Rena Repetti described this as the "cascade of risk" that creates "vulnerabilities (and exacerbating preexisting biological vulnerabilities) that lay the groundwork for long-term physical and mental health problems."
Repetti classified risky family characteristics into two categories:
- Overt family conflict: frequent episodes of anger and aggression
- Deficient nurturing: relationships that are not supportive, but cold, and neglectful
Health System Barriers
Since insurance premiums have risen in cost drastically over the past decade, 2/3 of working, uninsured Americans choose not to purchase health insurance because of the cost.
The problem this presents to our communities and our nation, is that most Americans tend to only seek out medical care when they experience a problem, thereby not receiving preventive health care such as cholesterol screening, mammograms, and more. It's estimated that the United States loses $65-130 billion per year due to poor health and early death of uninsured Americans. Compare this to a Kaiser Foundation study, which revealed that if the Obama Administration's approved policies were actually implemented, it would cost $48 million to insure every American.
Because individuals and families are also members of communities, advocates for health care often seek reform at this level.
Communities can be powerful forces for promoting or discouraging healthy behaviors at several levels: in schools, government agencies, and the health care system.
Examples of community effects on individuals:
- Positive: Several schools in Minnesota, after administration learned that teens need more sleep, implemented new start times. Three years of data collected revealed the following results: more students ate breakfast, attendance improved, fewer students were tardy, teachers noticed better alertness in class, the school atmosphere was rated as calmer, there were fewer disciplinary referrals to the principal, and fewer trips to the school nurse for stress-related and other problems. (National Sleep Foundation, 2010)
- Negative: Communities can also generate higher rates of peer-inspired risk behaviors such as underage alcohol use and higher rates of binge drinking among college students than among non-college students.
Break the Barriers
Now it's your choice. You may take this knowledge of these environmental factors that could be working against you and just give up the fight for good health, or you can become your own advocate: pursuing personal health, acting as a good role model for your family, and helping affect healthy lifestyle change systems and laws in your community.