The state of health - A social problem in Romania

Author:Luiza Mesesan Schmitz
Position:Department of Social Assistance and Communication, <I>Transilvania</I> University of Bra&#x015f;ov.

The present paper aims at drawing attention to a social problem in Romania, namely the health state of the population. In order to diagnose and to define the magnitude of this problem it is necessary to examine the indicators of the population health condition comparatively with those of other world states, and this matter is the objective of the present paper. At first there will be presented a... (see full summary)


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1. Introduction

The state of health is a fundamental resource not only for the persons but for the society, being an important factor for social development and for the growing of the economic level of a society. Cristina Doboş noticed on this subject that "a sick society is less productive, meaning that it is an obstacle against economic development and calls to higher costs for treatment, costs that in the end are supported by the beneficiaries. Through its long term consequences, a sick society could cost the budget more than solving some health problems in the main points at the present time" (Zamfir, 2006, 230). Therefore, the health state of the population is a social state which can negatively affect the adequate functioning of the society or the person`s condition, thus being included in the definition given by Zamfir Cătălin (Zamfir, 2006, 17) that presents the social problem as "a factor, a process, a social or a natural state that negatively affects the function of the society and the people's condition".

In other words, the health state may become a social problem when this problem affects the longevity of people or determines a series of chronic diseases to them. On the other hand the health state may become a social problem because of the inequitable distribution of health care system in society. In Romania only the persons who pay health insurance can access a range of quality services. The majority of people have access to health services but the income is an important predictor for the access to quality services. A poor health state of the population causes on one hand to reduce economic and social development, and the other hand may increase cost for the healthcare.

The most utilized indicators for measuring the health state of the population are life expectancy and healthy life expectancy. According to Eurostate data, life expectancy is continuously increasing in Romania and Europe in thePage 42last ten years and in the period 2004-2007 it has increased on average with 0.7 years in the UE countries. Starting with the year 2004, the healthy life expectancy follows the same trend. In this period it has increased on average with 1.8 years. Although in all the countries the Sullivan method to calculate the healthy life expectancy was used, the comparability of the data across countries is limited by the cultural differences from country to country because the questions of the existence of disabilities might be interpreted differently from a country to another one.

The analysis if indicators life expectancy and healthy life expectancy between 2004-2007 Table 1

Country The increase The Country The increase The
of the healthy increase of the healthy increase
life of the life life of the life
expectancy expectancy expectancy expectancy
Belgium 5,6 1,09 Finland 5,1 0,6
Czech Republic 3,3 1,2 Sweden 5,7 0,6
Denmark -1,4 0,74 United Kingdom 1,2 0,76
Germany 3,3 0,94 Iceland 7,2 0,64
Estonia 1,3 0,83 Norway 1,3 0,73
Ireland 1 0,96 Portugal 5,3 0,97
Greece 1,9 0,5 Romania ... 1,46
Spain 0,4 0,84 Slovenia 2,4 1,14
France 0,1 0,92 Slovakia -0,5 0,29
Italy -8,7 0,55 Hungary 3,7 0,65
Cyprus 4,8 1,22 Malta 0,7 0,18
Latvia 0,6 -0,18 Netherlands 0,6 1,21
Lithuania 3,4 -1,46 Austria 0,9 1,05
Luxembourg 4,4 0,67 Poland -5,3 0,35

The analysis was conducted only on data from 2004-2007, since data was not comparable with the period before 2004 because the methodology for calculating healthy life expectancy indicator. Table 1 shows that, over a period of three years, healthy life expectancy increased more than life expectancy at birth.

This data seems to confirm the existence of "compressed morbidity scenario" shown by Frank Shaw (2002) apud Rotariu (2006, 16), which implies that in the common years there will be a growth period of delay diseases so that the interval between the occurrence of diseases and death will be shorter.

This can lead to lower costs with older people, but on the other hand the increase of health state in countries as Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, is due to investment in medicine. Besides the economic aspect, in the context of increasing life expectancy at birth, requires serious of preventive measures so that to increase more and more the age when a series of diseases and disabilities occur, for the society to have active people until older ages and for health state of the population does not became a serious social problem.Page 43

2. What is a Social Problem?

In order to have a complex definition of a social problem it is necessary to have a series of theoretical and methodological conditions. A problem becomes a social problem if it is considered undesirable by the population from a community or at least by a part of the community. It is clear that some social problems are perceived as undesirable only by certain category of people. In this case, the population state of health can be a social problem for the whole country population but perceived as undesirable especially by the persons older than 50.

The undesirability can be measured by identifying the social condition that would result from that problem.

The population would perceive the state of health as a problem when their own state of health is affected and that would affect their independence and mobility, wellness state and the relations with the persons that they care for, losing the status and even diminishing incomes. In this sense, the public conscience has an important role in defining a social problem, by pointing out the undesirable elements for the person but which are not noticeable for the person on a short term, as well as highlighting the negative effects for the society that are also not noticed by the population.

Most of the times people are interested in short term visible effects and do not also take into consideration the long-term effects. The health state could become a social problem only when is already manifesting a series of symptoms that are harder to be treated.

The degree of undesirability is in fact strongly linked to the degree of being fully aware and the attitude towards the existing problem. The awareness of a problem can be different to certain categories of persons. Females could define the state of health as a problem, while males give less importance to this aspect. Likewise, persons over 50 year old have as main concern the state of health, while younger persons consider that other problems are more important. And the examples can continue with different variables which could divide the population in categories with a different level of awareness of the problem: education, residential environment etc.

Other criteria in the formulation of a social problem are the significant number of...

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