4.2 Task 1: Identifying main points from the text

The extract below is from a chapter called ‘Whose health is it anyway?’ by Brenda Smith and David Goldblatt (2004) from Open University course DD100 An introduction to the social sciences: understanding social change.

Please read the information outlined in the box below and make notes on the important points.

Whose health is it anyway?

Health seems to play an increasing role in our everyday lives. It is difficult to pick up a newspaper or magazine, listen to the television or radio, or visit a bookshop without being confronted with information on health or exhortations to avoid certain foods, take certain vitamins or minerals, take regular exercise and a host of other things. It seems that everyone is concerned with health – not just doctors and health-care professionals, but the government, the media and indeed all of us who each year make resolutions to eat more healthily, drink or smoke less and take regular exercise. A lot of this information and advice seems to suggest that we can influence the extent to which we enjoy good health through the food we eat, the exercise we take (or don't take), the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ habits we have. In other words, we each seem to be responsible for whether or not we enjoy full, active, healthy lives.

However, despite this rhetoric of responsibility for oneself and one's health, a close look at the same sources tells us that atmospheric pollution is a major problem of the era and that it is largely responsible for breathing difficulties such as asthma in our cities. In the twenty-first century we are also witnessing widespread concerns about the health effects of genetically engineered food and heated debates about just how ‘natural’ the fruit and vegetables in our shops and supermarkets are. Increasingly, too, we hear about the medical discoveries of genes which play a part in the development of diseases such as cancer, whilst drug companies constantly seem to produce new treatments for many forms of disease. Many sources also suggest that feelings of being uneasy with ourselves and the stresses and strains of everyday life cause many illnesses.

These arguments seem to suggest that there are many causes of illness which are not within the individual's control. As individuals we are concerned with maximizing our own health. However, these issues are also important for society as a whole. Apart from moral reasons for maximizing the health of the nation, provision of health services places a considerable financial burden on taxpayers. In Britain, around 7 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (an indicator of the nation's income) is spent on health care services, whilst working time lost through illness places pressure on business and other organizations.

Activity 2

Now, read the extract again and make notes on the important points in preparation for an essay entitled ‘What factors can be seen to affect health?’

You can use a dictionary if you need to.

Step 4 Self-assessment exercises: identifying points and expressing ideas

4.2.1 Self-assessment