• Emma Green

Social determinants of health

In my previous post of healthism I got a range of comments and had some great conversations. Something that came through strongly was the belief that health is perceived as being under the almost complete control of the individual. This is a message heavily promoted by mainstream approaches to public health and thus often remains unchallenged. It’s important to acknowledge the multiple forms of privilege which not only directly contribute to health but also influence the ability to engage in health-promoting behaviours. If you want to read scientific literature about this, look at the huge number of studies on the social determinants of health. To give a personal example, I am I in a small body, I am white, I am able-bodied and was brought up in a middle-class family. I am thus in a position where I can make a choice about whether to engage in health-promoting behaviours. People do not make assumptions about my health or fitness levels. I can buy clothes that fit me in mainstream shops. I do not have limitations that physically restrict my ability to exercise. I do not face discrimination due to my race or body size that would negatively affect my wellbeing. I can afford to buy nutrient-dense foods without having to sacrifice other areas of my life. This is not bragging. I have not earned these privileges, they have been bestowed upon me due to factors outside of my control. You cannot change your privilege but you can acknowledge it, whilst reading and listening to the experiences of others who do not have that privilege. It is not their obligation to educate you, it is your own. They do not owe you the emotional labour of explaining their life circumstances. Privilege is not a comfortable topic but it’s an important one. If you want social justice for all individuals, there is no escaping it. It’s your choice how you want to use your privilege but why not make it count?

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