Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Contribution of Environmental Risk Factors Including Lifestyle to Inequalities Noncommunicable (Chronic) Diseases Such as Diabetes

Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Contribution of Environmental Risk Factors Including Lifestyle to Inequalities Noncommunicable (Chronic) Diseases Such as Diabetes

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

One of the most important diabetological problems, being at the same time one of the most difficult problems in the whole medicine of the early 21st century, is the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes. In the developed countries, it affects a few percent of the population, and this percentage is still growing fast (King et al., 1999). Type 2 diabetes is the cause of premature death, first of all caused by cardiovascular problems, and complications leading to blindness, amputation of limbs and kidney failure (Selby, 1997). The disease has serious psychological and economic consequences, which affect patients, their families, local communities, healthcare system, and so - the whole society.

The World Health Organization estimates that in 1985 there were 30 million people suffering from diabetes in the world, 10 years later 135 m, and in the year 2000 - 171 m. It is expected that in 2030 there will be about 366 m people suffering from diabetes. Each year, about 3.2 m people in the world die as a result of complications caused by diabetes. Diabetes has become one of the main metabolic diseases. This means that there is full justification for speaking of an epidemic or even pandemic of this disease. The main causes for the incidence of diabetes include: aging of the society, wrong diet, excessive body weight or obesity, and sedentary lifestyle. However, professional literature stresses especially that the growing number of people with type 2 diabetes is connected with the growing incidence of obesity and aging of the population. What is more, the above factors are modifiable ones (except for age), and are strictly correlated with occurrence of health inequalities.

2. Health Inequalities

The popularization of healthcare access starting from the 1950s brought about a clear improvement in the health status of the developed countries societies. However - contrary to the expectations - this tendency has not been accompanied by gradual disappearance of the problem of health status inequalities (Wlodarczyk, 2006). This was because the process of health status improvement has not progressed in a uniform way across the whole population. The health status of privileged social groups has been improving faster and in a lasting way, while the inequalities between groups distinguished, for example, based on the income level or education, have been increasing all the time (Sowa, 2007).

When analysing the topical literature, we note problems with a precise definition of the notion of health inequalities. This is because not all differences in the health status of individuals are perceived as inequalities in the meaning used here. There is a natural differentiation between individuals, and the health dimension is one of the expressions of this differentiation. However, the state when all individuals are characterized by equal health status, or live until the same age, is not an achievable goal (Whitehead, 1990). Hence health inequalities - in the considered sense- are socially determined, and biological differences, whether inborn or sex-related, are treated as not connected with the category of inequalities, due to the absence of a direct impact of the individual on their emergence (Wlodarczyk, 2006). Taking into consideration such a view of differences in the health status, health inequalities are recognized as systematic and avoidable differences in health results among social groups, so that the less affluent and/or persons finding themselves in other disadvantageous social situations are more prone to diseases and live shorter than persons with higher financial status (Judge et al., 2006). We should also add that the characteristics of the notion of health inequalities is extended to include their being both unwanted and not attributable to the persons afflicted by them (Wlodarczyk, 2006).

Here it is also advisable to distinguish between two rather closely related terms: equality in health and equality in access to healthcare (Kaczmarek et al. …

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