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Social Conditions as Causes of Disease

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By saying that “individually-based risk factors must be contextualized,” Bruce Link and Jo Phelan emphasize that before making concluding statements about the causes of disease, one has to take the situation in context of social and class factors.  They believe that socioeconomic and class factors play a great role in affecting the likelihood of disease in an individual being or individual society.  By looking at an example, we can see how socioeconomic factors affect one’s health.  Take a janitor working in a factory, for example.  He is from a poor neighborhood in the ghettos and works at the factory cleaning up after employees, often handling chemicals and unhygienic materials without a face mask or gloves. 

Because of the nature of his job, he often gets sick and even develops asthma, having hard time breathing.  However, because of his social status and other factors such as unhealthy and cheap food at home, his condition worsens and he develops other ailments such as diabetes.  The main issue here is economics as he cannot afford healthcare and must rely on government programs or donations, or simply treat himself through over the counter medicine, which is expensive as well.  His social position deprives him of a good education, job and resources, which further lead to health problems and inability to afford healthcare.  Therefore, the disease outcome is higher in the lower classes. 

In order to reduce the outbreak of any disease, the lower classes in the social system must be targeted first and at least provided with the education to prevent certain ailments.  It should be noted that the lower a person is on the social ladder, the more physically demanding and health affective his job will be, which means that there must be strict regulations regarding safety and hygiene from the employers.  The employers should be punished for negligence as this will provide them the incentive to take better care of their employees.  The main intervention lies in education and a change of lifestyles in the lower social classes, as prevention is better than the cure, and of course better than the high likelihood of disease outbreak in lower classes, which are the most likely victims due to their lack of resources.

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