I term health to define what a person’s perceives of themselves and others, based on physical, emotional and psychological impressions. For myself, the deciding factors in being considered to have good health will include a diet and exercise that is conducive to the positive maintenance of the body. Illness therefore would be a physical and/or mental state that that does not allow a person to function in daily life activities to their full capacity. My father is a doctor and my mother is an advocate of holistic health, therefore I was raised in a clinical environment that encouraged good diet and exercise as positive role models of good health. Nevertheless, my definitions are subjective to my exposure to the environment I was raised in and may be interpreted differently by others.

One of the reasons for this difference is ‘norms’. Cultural norms play a significant role in how a person develops a worldview on not only terminology but also life. The western media portrays images of well being as being slim, toned and active and this is promulgated by famous personalities who are seen as role models. The prevalence of obesity in the West is associated with a poor diet and lack of exercise. Therefore, to not be obese, which incidentally is considered an illness, westerners attempt to be healthy by becoming slim and eating less. On the other hand, in many third world countries, a slim body may be considered a sign of a poor diet, but due to the lack of food or financial means, rather than overabundance.  For such cultures, eating more and not being slim is a social and physical benefit as it can demonstrate both health and wealth.

The two conditions I decided to select from the list were ‘cancer’ and ‘ADHD’. I feel that cancer may be considered universally as an illness as it is a physical state of change of the body. The symptoms of cancer manifest themselves visibly and detrimentally such as weight loss and development of cancer cells. The second condition I chose was ADHD and this is a controversial term as there are those who suggest that this condition does not actually exist but rather is a manifestation of symptoms of other conditions. It is also a condition that is found mainly in western cultures and is considered to be linked to diet and lifestyle. Culturally, ADHD may also have stigmas, which would also make it something that some people are reluctant to consider an illness as it may suggest mental deficits within a family.


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  1. Alex Palffy says:

    In the United States, cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death. This is the norm in most developed countries, however in developing countries the most common cause of death are lower respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases. Developing countries such as Haiti not only don’t have a lot cancer care being provided, but they lack the resources to handle the treatment. Cancer requires the coordination of many health providers: oncologists, surgeons, nuclear medicine specialists, nurses, palliative care facilities… not to mention ancillary services such as cancer support groups. The health care infrastructure of developing countries usually cannot handle the burden of basic medical services such as primary care, let alone everything needed for cancer treatment. According Mohammed Elbaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) most developing countries do not have the doctors or radiotherapy machines to administer radiation treatment, which is effective in 50-60 percent of cancer cases. In Sri Lanka, cancer incidence has risen to unheard of levels – mostly due to the fact that life expectantancy has increased. Specifically between 1992 and 2002 the incidence of cancner in Sri Lanka has increased by over 100%, with 50% of cases being treatable with radiation. The treatment of cancer in countries outside of the US is different primarily because of lack of resources due to low incidence levels.


    Center of Disease Control, “FASTSTATS – Leading Causes of Death.” Last modified January 11, 2013. Accessed July 7, 2013.

    Mohamed, ElBaradei. IAEA, “International Atomic Energy Agency.” Last modified 2008. Accessed July 7, 2013.

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