Today, the US confronts a number of issues concerning the public health. The fast progressing obesity epidemics becomes one of the major threats to the US public health. At the same time, opportunities to lead the healthy lifestyle become wider. In such a situation, it is possible to trace two opposing trends in health behavior of Americans. On the one hand, they slip to obesity and face numerous health problems, while, on the other hand, many Americans tend to pay a lot of attention to their health, they choose carefully their diet and food they eat, and do their best to lead the healthy lifestyle. Such controversial trends in one and the same society that can be traced now reveal the fact that different social groups manifest different trends. In such a situation, it is important to find out reasons for such difference in the health behavior of Americans to determine factors that encourage Americans to turn to the healthy lifestyle and healthy behavior. The brief analysis of the existing trends in the healthy behavior of Americans reveals that there are obvious inequalities in the quality of health of Americans and their approach to their health. The preliminary analysis shows that obesity is rather a serious problems that affects over a quarter of all Americans now and the share of Americans with obesity keeps growing. At the same time, the healthy lifestyle, including healthy nutrition and practicing sports is costly that means that such healthy behavior is available to the middle- and upper-class of Americans. Obesity, affects all layers of the American society but the poor are the most affected by obesity because they tend to choose the cheapest food of the low quality that is unhealthy as a rule. Therefore, the current health behavior and preferences of Americans are not only the result of their beliefs, habits and traditions but also the result of the existing socioeconomic disparity and awareness of Americans about their health and importance of the healthy lifestyle.
Theoretical framework: Health Belief Model
The adequate understanding of health behavior of people is quite challenging because individuals manifest different behavioral patterns that define their attitude to health and their physical condition. In this respect, people tend to manifest similar health behavior patterns and this trend may traced at the local as well as national level. For example, the analysis of the health behavior of Americans reveals the key trends in the behavior of individuals they are inclined to. Such similarities and common trends in the behavior of people attracted the attention of scientists and researchers, who attempted to understand reasons behind such common health behavior patterns as well as differences in the health behavior of people and their attitude to their health. In search of response to the main question that explains the health behavior of individuals and large social groups, scientists have developed numerous theories that provided their explanation of health behavior.
As the one of the earliest frameworks for understanding human behavior, the health belief model declares that individuals will take health related actions based on six types of factors and associated beliefs (Abroms & Maibach, 2008). First, the perceived susceptibility is one of the fundamental concepts of the health belief model. The perceived susceptibility implies that the condition may hurt the individual on any aspect of the biopsychosocial model (Eysenbach, 2000). This means that individuals are vulnerable to the impact of existing social biases and stereotypes that define their attitude to their health. At the same time, people focus on their subjective perception of their physical condition which may be aggravated by their psychological condition. For example, people working or living in a stressful environment may feel being ill or feel physical discomfort because of their psychological problems. As a result, the individual perception of one’s health depends on existing social biases and the subjective physical and psychological condition of individuals.
Another important aspect of the health belief model is the perceived severity which affects the perception of individuals’ health and the condition of individuals. The perceived severity is the condition is severe enough to have a negative consequence (Needleman, et al., 2002). The perceived severity is the subjective perception of the severity of specific health problems each individual have. For example, individuals with similar health problems may perceive their severity in different ways. Some people may be optimistic about their health condition, while others are pessimistic. This is why their health behavior will differ. Often the condition of those, who are more pessimistic, deteriorates more significantly than the condition of those, who are optimistic about their health condition and its severity.
Furthermore, an important aspect of the health belief model is the perceived benefits which define the perception of certain health behavior and their effects by individuals. As a rule, people tend to adopt behavioral patterns which they believe are useful for their health. The perceived benefits include the advised actions that may stop, lower, or lessen the affect, risk, and consequences of the condition, respectively (Baker & Baker, 2014). This is why, if people believe that certain actions are useful for their health, they adopt those actions and lead specific lifestyle that they believe to be useful for their health.
At the same time, the health behavior is vulnerable to the impact of perceived barriers/costs, which may raise barriers on their way to receive health care services of the high quality and benefit from various health services. The perceived barriers/costs imply that the corrective/preventive benefits outweigh the psychological and physical harms of abiding to the advised behavior (Snell-Jones, et al., 2003). Therefore, perceived barriers and costs decrease positive effects of health benefits and advised health behavior that is useful for health of people.
Also, the health behavior model involves cues to action that guide people in their health behavior and direct them in their health behavior. There is an internal or external cue, or both, that trigger the individual to finally act (Parvis, 2002). These cues urge individuals to start acting in certain way to enhance their health behavior. At the same time, such cues may not always be positive and useful for their health. Instead, such cues may encourage unhealthy behavior patterns driven by current trends in the culture or the lack of scientific understanding of certain issues and effects of certain behavior.
The health belief model is better for predicting simple, one-time or limited behaviors (e.g. immunizations) than habitual behaviors (Ghodeswar & Vaidyanathan, 2007). At the same time, this model implies that the development of health behavior depends on multiple factors shaped by cultural norms and beliefs, the development of science and medicine, personal subjective perception of one’s physical condition, psychological factors and other factors that affect the health behavior of individuals and define their perception of their health as well as their sense of wellbeing. The health belief model is one of the early theories that explained the health behavior of individuals. This theory holds the premise that health behavior depends on multiple factors that are not always objective but often are subjective. This is why health behavior depends, to a significant extent, on subjective factors that shape individuals’ worldview and their perception of health and positive health behavior.
Current differences in the health behavior of Americans
The health behavior of Americans is also vulnerable to the impact of various factors that are defined by the health belief model. Various factors shape their views on their health and encourage certain types of the health behavior. However, the health behavior of Americans differs consistently since different social groups tend to manifest the different health behavior. In this regard, it is possible to distinguish different trends in the development of the health behavior of Americans.
At the moment, it is possible to trace two controversial trends in the US society and in the health behavior of Americans. On the one hand, there are Americans, who face serious health problems caused by the poor nutrition and the lack of attention to their health as well as the shortage of health care services available to them. Such health behavior has a negative impact on their health and reveals the indifference of some Americans do their health or their inability to take care of their health and conduct the healthy lifestyle to avoid the possible deterioration of their health driven by the negative impact of various factors, such as poor nutrition, unhealthy habits and lifestyle. They do not or cannot pay much attention to their health and comprise a risk group vulnerable to the development of various health problems, among which it is worth mentioning obesity, cardio-vascular diseases, and other health problems which often become chronic.
On the other hand, there are Americans, who take care of their health. They pay attention to their nutrition, follow healthy diets, practice sport and lead the active lifestyle. Such Americans have access to health care services and pay a lot of attention to the maintenance of their health. This trend is totally different from the trend described above. Such Americans tend to the healthy lifestyle and their health behavior is very positive. They are concerned with their health and they do their best to practice sports or lead the active lifestyle. They attempt to minimize negative environmental factors and eliminate risk factors to their health that may trigger the deterioration of their health or the development of chronic illnesses. Such Americans manifest their positive health behavior and are aware of the healthy lifestyle which they attempt to stick to the healthy lifestyle to make their life healthy.
Cultural traditions and beliefs that affect the health behavior of Americans
Traditionally, Americans took their health for granted and did not pay much attention to their health. However, by the late 20th century, drastic changes in the lifestyle of Americans, their nutrition, and physical activities resulted in the consistent decline of the public health. In this regard, the main trends in the behavior of individuals and their lifestyle became negative and even dangerous for their health (Zelman, McCue, & Glick, 2009). Changes in the nutrition of Americans became particularly dangerous because the wide spread of fast food and the wide use of processed food increased the risk of the deterioration of the quality of food consumed by Americans on the regular basis. The increased rhythm of life of Americans resulted in irregular meals. In a combination with the low quality of food and the lack of healthy elements, such as vitamins and acids, and the consumption of food rich in fat resulted in the overall deterioration of the public health. Americans tend to consume unhealthy food being unaware of the healthy nutrition. Another problem concerning the health behavior of Americans became the change of the lifestyle because many Americans tend to the development of the sedative lifestyle. Today, the overwhelming majority of Americans lead the sedative lifestyle which is unhealthy but there are a few alternatives for them. In this regard, sports and other physical activities are not always available to Americans and they do not always care about their physical activities.
Moreover, the late 20th – early 21st century revealed the trend toward growing disparities within the US society, when some Americans suffer from the poor health and lack access to health care services, while other Americans benefit from the healthy lifestyle and wide access to advanced health care services. The availability of health care services is still one of the primary concerns of many Americans and the last health care reform known as Obamacare intends to make health care services available to all Americans. The availability of health care services is the objective factor that defines health behavior of Americans. For example, a large part of Americans remained uninsured that limited their access to health care services drastically. The recent health care reform offers opportunities to fund various programs to grant Americans with the wider access to health care services.
The emerging number of health care problems revealed the problem of the decline of the public health and negative changes in the health behavior of Americans which lead to the accumulation of health problems because of negative behavior patterns of Americans and the contemporary culture. The decline of the public health involves the growth of obesity, cardio-vascular diseases, and spread of other chronic illnesses that decrease the quality of life of Americans.
In this regard, profound changes in the way of life of Americans, the change of the rhythm of life and the change in human activities contributed to drastic changes in the health behavior of Americans. Their beliefs with regard to their health have started to change. Many Americans remain basically indifferent to their health and they are in the risk group to develop serious health problems, unless they start taking care of their health. The lack of attention to their health aggravates the quality of life and health behavior of Americans even more. Ironically, often they just have to get rid of negative effects of their habits like substance abuse or smoking. In such a way, the quality of life of Americans deteriorates not only because of changes in their environment but also because of their negligent attitude to their health.
At the same time, more and more Americans become aware of their health and risks they confront because of changes in their lifestyle, rhythm of their life, and other changes that have occurred to their life. In such a way, the change of their lifestyle became the priority for them. This is a relatively new trend that involves a part of American society that becomes concerned about their health. Such Americans are, as a rule, educated professionals, who belong to the middle- or upper-class. The progress of science and increased availability of information about the healthy lifestyle and negative effects of the current lifestyle of Americans help them to change their health behavior and shift toward the healthy lifestyle (Sanford, 2011). Americans can easily find information on possible risks and threats to their health and they may learn what they have to do to improve their health and become healthier.
However, efforts of Americans at the individual level are not enough to make positive changes in their health behavior. The progress of obesity in the US proves the inability of Americans to resolve their problems in their health behavior without the assistance of the state as well as non-government organizations. The assistance of the government and non-government organizations should promote changes in the health behavior of people. These changes involve not the mere promotion of the healthy lifestyle or provision of recommendations on the healthy lifestyle to Americans, but also the enhancement of control over the quality of food and its safety for health of Americans. Moreover, the government and non-government organizations should set quality standards that food producing companies, restaurants, retailers and other companies selling food to Americans should match. The government should also enhance the employment legislation to provide wider opportunities for Americans to have access to health care services as well as opportunities to practice sport or other physical activities.
Furthermore, the development of the healthy lifestyle involves the development of related businesses that provide healthy lifestyle of people and provide them with an opportunity to benefit from the active lifestyle. Such changes contribute to the development of positive, healthy habits in their lifestyle and the formation of the healthy lifestyle and healthy behavior that will lead to the improvement of their health. Today, health-related businesses are on the hike. Their share in the US economy grows wider because Americans become more and more concerned about their health. In actuality, healthy behavior is not only the matter of individual health but also the matter of the financial wellbeing of Americans because many Americans experience difficulties with covering their heath care costs. In such a situation, investing in the health behavior is more efficient and economically reasonable than coverage of health care costs of Americans.
Socioeconomic factors and their impact on the health behavior of Americans
The analysis of current differences in the health behavior of Americans and health problems they confront reveals a strong impact of socioeconomic factors on their health and health behavior. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the fact that low-income families and Americans belonging to the lower-class are more likely to have serious health problems, such as obesity, and poor health. Their health behavior is rather negative than positive. The analysis of the quality of life and health of Americans reveal wide gaps between low-income families and representatives of the middle-and upper-class. Low-income families have the limited access to health care services and their health behavior is rather negative, while the quality of their health is in decline.
In actuality, there are several factors that trigger the negative health behavior and the poor health of the poor in the US. First, they have a limited access to health care services. In such a situation, they simply do not always know that they have any health problems that need treatment. As a result, their heath deteriorates steadily to the extent that they may develop chronic illnesses that deteriorate their quality of life (Wolf & Bennett, 2006). This is why economic factors become the major obstacle on the access of low-income Americans to health care services. At this point, their health behavior and the lack of access to health care services is not just their private matter but it is the matter of the national economy. The lack of access of Americans to health care services becomes the burden for the national economy. The government develops programs to fund health care plans to cover health care costs for those Americans, who cannot afford health insurance. The productivity of employees with the low quality of health decreases. These are just a few negative economic effects of the poor health behavior and public health to mention. Such deterioration of health behavior aggravates the situation in the US public health and economy. Economic roots of such negative health behavior are obvious and they play the primary part in the decline of the public health of the US.
The lack of access to health care services is aggravated by their low awareness of their health and necessity to maintain their body in a good physical shape and basics of the healthy lifestyle. As a rule, they have low education level and are not competent in the field of health and have only basic ideas of their personal hygiene. They cannot afford healthy nutrition as well as they often do not have time for regular and healthy meals. As a result, their health is in decline, while their health behavior is negative and harmful for their health.
Also, representatives of the lower-class and low-income families tend to the unhealthy nutrition because they purchase the cheapest food which is of the low quality and are dangerous for their health because such food can provoke obesity and related health problems. For example, they often use fast food instead of the conventional food that leads to the deterioration of their health. In stark contrast, representatives of the middle and upper-class tend to pay much more attention to their health and their health behavior is much better and healthier. This is why wealthier Americans tend to the better health behavior that makes their position better compared to Americans with the low income.
Thus, health behavior of Americans today depends on many objective and subjective factors among which cultural traditions and socioeconomic development of the US play the determinant part and lead to the growing disparity between low-income Americans, on the one hand, and the middle- and upper-class, on the other. The health belief model applied to the study of health behavior of Americans reveals the fact that they are vulnerable to the impact of cultural traditions oriented on the consumption of unhealthy food that is deep-rooted in the contemporary culture. In addition, the change of their lifestyle aggravates their public health even more. On the other hand, there are is the growing number of Americans, who become more and more concerned about their health. However, the poor still have the limited access to health care services and their health behavior is rather negative than positive because of their low awareness and lack of proper education to change their lifestyle and improve their health behavior. In contrast, wealthier Americans become more and more concerned with their health behavior.
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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016
"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016
"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016
"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016