Narratives of Health and Illness

Introduction to Narratives of Health and Illness

Social determinants of health are nowadays of great importance and generate an impact on the history of an individual's health. By SDOH, it means the factors that influence the individual coalescing in societal activities. It is the immediate environment in which the person is residing. The well being of the individual completely relies on the society in which he dwells earns income/wealth and workplace environment.The impact of these on health is multifaceted, ranging from biological to behavioral and even on cognitive level.Stress caused by financial insecurities may affect hormonal functioning, neurological functioning and even immunity.. Society and the economy builds a natural environment to amalgamate,which fosters and boosts chances to get involved in healthy behaviors and allows people to seek health care . Hence the ones living and working in physical, economic,and social environments which are not healthy,less advantaged populations in terms of education, income or race can face challenges in upgrading health status.Even though the medical care provided to them is best and motivations to engage in healthy life is high. The SDOH has increased prominence in treating and reviewing public health( Lucyk & Mclaren 2017).

Health Narratives: Overview and Importance

Narratives,in general, is a coherent explanation of incidents that have happened in their life putting it in story form accompanied by great details. The word narrative has arrived from latin word source “narrare” which means to tell. In common words, it is a mode of discourse, a way through which one gives an account or description of incidents. Health narratives follow the same ideology and concept, further helping patients express their feelings and also briefing someone about their illness. They not only help a patient explain their present health status,but also assist with the diagnosis and actual treatment of their illness.

The communication between a healthcare giver/counsellor and the patient can have a great effect on how a person reacts to a diagnostic treatment. Not only does the health narratives help patients, but it also directs physicians and doctors to proceed with the curing procedures. Doctors listen to their patient’s health history in order to work harder for the patient and to cure them. In the journal article, Rita Charon(Md, Ph.d) discusses health narratives and narrative medicine, and how they are influenced by the theories of biopsycho-social medicine and patient-centered medicine. These theories help develop interrelatedness and association between the physician and the patient. Charon states, “Narratives offer physicians the means to improve the efficacy of their work with patients, themselves and their colleagues”. When physicians have both a professional and a personal relationship with their patients, a beneficial impact is made on the treatment process and also the patient can handle the emotional side of what they are going through (Charon,2001).

Health narratives are most helpful to the person who narrates the process of health incidents. In addition it also helps those who are in connection with the treatment of the individual; be it a counselor or doctor. A narrative has no hard and fast rules governing how it is supposed to be about. In a nutshell a narrative is not meant to make a person feel worse rather the person who is explaining the narrative will not even realize that by expressing the terms,she or he is not only helping others understand and experience what the body is going through, but also helping oneself understand what is truly happening within.

Prioritizing SDOH in Health Experience

The SDOH or social determinants of health are the factors or conditions in which an individual is born, lives, works and grows. There are forces which influence or affect his/her day to day life like access to health care services, quality of education, social norms (eg racism, discrimination,) , exposure to violence, job opportunities, social support, public safety and access to emerging new technologies(internet, mobile phones). It is all about the environment which is to be provided to the individual for his positive progress and to achieve a social niche with a healthier mindset and stable population.

The SDOH becomes a vital part in analysing the person’s health experience.For an instance, there is evidence that the poor living/housing condition can levy serious health issues on an individual and his family.A cold and damp houses which easily get bacterial and mould growth can cause respiratory and breathing problems. A study conducted on people residing near Pacific revealed the way of living as compared to the New Zealand population and European people. Pacific people are at a greater chance of occuring breathing disorders and common cold followed by flu (Butler, Williams,Paterson & Tukuitonga,2003).

We can supposedly say that the SDOH acts as a portfolio to determine and understand the patient’s health history. It is stated that a labour’s health issues will be completely different from that of an IT professional. There will be different scenarios of expenditure, food and living standards. The health professional will have to judge and evaluate the outcomings and will cure and calm the patient in accordance to the demand. The stages of evaluation and decree can be physical, emotional or even psychological.The health experts will have to analyze the deficits according to the social determinants. The narratives work here and the forms the case study which initiates one step ahead and a stronger recovery. It is actually all about building communities in a fine fettle with mutual cooperation and association.

Case Study

Life of Adam Goodes as a footballer was great. Starting from being mentally to physically fit.Life as a footballer was great for him. He felt amazing on the field.But the 3 years of his sports career was strenuous.He had to struggle mentally. He battled with depression as well. He felt like crap because he had no energy in him.He loved the footy field but had a haziness as well. He finally overcame it after visiting a psychiatrist. Training in the field helped him deal with lack of balance between work and personal life. Adam’s mental strength was tested when he had to suffer from recurring bullying on the field even in the matches. The young section bullied him for being a black Australian. It proved that a man who is 6 foot tall and so sturdy can deal with the insults. Finally it happened that he had to retire. For him it was the most agonizing decision(Coram & Hallinan 2017).

Impact of Racism

Adam Goodes is seen as an aboriginal Australian and a receiver of “Australian of the Year” who had to face a series of racial issues and trauma till one day was forced to go far away from the football court he adored (Grant, 2019).

A Proud aboriginal man:Goodes often stood up for improving interrace relations. After retiring from the game, his efforts were to be seen in supporting the anti racism acts. The effects he had on his psychology was seen evidently. The constant booing in the matches where he was at the zenith of his career and certain incidents forced him to walk away from it.

The 2 hours documentary “The Australian Dreams” talks about the effects that the people suffer from racism. It instantly can make them feel that they are alien to the country they love, stay and serve. It takes courage to believe the fact that the one is being bullied of what his identity is.Thus it becomes an important issue to be solved. It affects the physical and mental health. It believes that one is not being accepted for what he is. That can definitely break the morale affecting the confidence and honour. ““I believe racism is a community issue, which we all need to address and that's why racism stops with me”- Adam Goodes (The Australian Dream 2019).

After retirement, he has worked tirelessly for the indigenous group. He has been involved in community programs. Starting from awaring people about aboriginals to working for removing racism. The racist statement can always be heard and remains predominant (Cruz 2018).

The SDOH of racism affects the indigenous psychologically. The ways by which one can deal with the SDOH caused by racism is educating about it. Awareness is very important. Exercising works here as an antidepressant. Exercising and mental health are interrelated. Exercising boosts immunity. It makes the person think in a rational way. It refreshes my mind. Many researches have been conducted where it is seen that that there is always a relation between physical activity and depression. The inactive ones are more likely to be depressed and unhappy rather than the active ones.

Meditation is a form of yoga where the mind and the soul both relaxes.It determines the natural reflexes to work. It is also one way by which consequences of SDOH can be controlled. Meditation helps clearing mind and removes mental disruption.It energises the mind and soul. Positive thoughts overshadow the negative ones helping the individual to overcome difficulties in life. There has been advancement in many types of yogic meditation and people are accepting them by open arms. Reiki, Yogas, Power Yogas are some of them which help in healing the overall body. The mental peace is stabilized. Individuals into these yogic meditation can feel the change in mood and the physical movements.

Sleep becomes an important part of the lifestyle. Adequate rest must be given to the body and mind.Shortage of sleep makes the man grumpy and angry. It can make the irritation level go high with slightest of insult and disregard.

The family is the most important part in an individual's life. Spending time with the family, doing things with family for example get togethers, going to beaches, watching movies can help restore peace of mind. Strengthening family ties are very important. It is that soft corner where a person can burst out his feelings of distress of anger. He gets love in return which is very important for the survival of humans.

Discipline is very important as far as the routine is concerned. But giving treats to oneself is also very vital. Sometimes giving cheat days and having chocolates does not harm the body. It is a reward to the system. For people who are in a tough fitness regime or belong to the entertainment industry, this treat works as delight. Sometimes having a pizza filled with cheese or burger immediately helps raise the positive temperament lowering the negative side (Billioux, Verlander,Anthony & Alley 2017).

SDOH has been an important determiner in case of the evaluation of public health. All aspects must be considered while undertaking the health review. The narratives also work well in this regard. The healthy population determine the country’s prosperity. Any type of discrimination leads to alteration of overall health. It must be kept in mind that social issues has to be solved for having a healthy society. 

Conclusion on Narratives of Health and Illness

Racism inputs high effect and influence in the individuals daily life. Combatting it can definitely increase the effectiveness of the citizens of the country. Equal rights must be provided so that they can effectively reside in society. The health narrative gets influenced by these factors. Providing equal rights and opportunities boost confidence and self esteem. It acts positively towards the working of the nation. Starting from mental health to physical, all is intertwined.

Equal opportunities for facilitating the medical, educational and social services must be provided. Social determinants must be kept on look as it endeavors in the working of the individual(Newman,Baum,Javanparast& Carlon 2015).

Reference List for Narratives of Health and Illness

Billioux, A., K. Verlander,K., Anthony,S. & Alley.D.( 2017). Standardized screening for health-related social needs in clinical settings: The accountable health communities screening tool. Discussion Paper, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC. (accessed June 11, 2017).

Butler, S., Williams,M., Paterson, J., & Tukuitonga, C. (2003). Problems with damp and cold housing among Pacific families in New Zealand. THE NEW ZEALAND MEDICAL JOURNAL, 116(1177). Retrieved from

Coram, S., & Hallinan, C. (2017). Critical race theory and the orthodoxy of race neutrality: Examining the denigration of Adam Goodes. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2017(1), 99-111

Cruz, D.G. (2018) Breaking bad: the booing of Adam Goodes and the politics of the black sports celebrity in Australia.Celebrity Studies, 9:1, 131-138, DOI: 10.1080/19392397.2018.1432390.

Grant,S. (2019). The Australian Dream tells Adam Goodes' story but its message is universal. Retrieved 14 August 2020, from

Lucyk, K., & McLaren, L.(2017).Taking stock of the social determinants of health: A scoping review. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177306.

Newman,L.,Baum,F.,Javanparast,S.,& Carlon,L.(2015). Addressing social determinants of health inequities through settings: a rapid review, Health Promotion International, Volume 30, Issue suppl_2, 1 September 2015, Pages ii126–ii143,

“The Australian Dream” -

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