THE CULTURAL CONCEPT OF DISEASE AND ILLNESS IN NIGERIA
The cultural concept of disease and illness in Nigeria is dominant among Nigerians. This is anchored on three main factors. These include:
- Natural factors. This factor is akin with the medical model in the sense that many people accept the fact that germs and hereditary factors can cause disease and ill health. Disease and illness are attributed to things like insect bites, bad odor, and improper hygiene.
- Pre-natural factor: In Nigeria, disease and illness are also linked to witchcraft and sorcery. Witches are believed to have powers to inflict harm on any part of the body of their target. Sorcery is also reached out to their victims by making contact with their personal effects such as cloths, pictures, fingernails, hairs, shoes etc. in some instances; they produce poison which they use to cause bodily harm among perceived enemies.
- Mystical factors. The etiological factors revolve around mystical forces. Many Nigerians worship ancestors because of the belief that they can influence a lot in the life of the living. Aged parents are buried in the family homestead as it is believed that their spirits are invoked in times of personal family, community distress or difficulty and crises because of the wide belief that failure to honour ancestors could spell doom or dare consequences for the lineage and erring members.
THE SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPLICATIONS OF ILL HEALTH.
Environmental factors play a crucial role in human development. Human exposure to hazardous agents in the air, water, soil, food and also to physical hazards in the environment are major contributors to illness, disability and death worldwide. More so, deterioration of environmental conditions impedes sustainable development. Poor environmental quality is estimated to be directly responsible for approximately 25% of overall preventable ill health in the world, especially among vulnerable population, WHO (2002).
Low income communities are the populations living with the worst built environmental conditions. Tradition holds that home is a heaven and where people are protected and nurtured. For the poor however, home is a health hazard when factors such as poverty, environmental contamination, and poor housing design combine to cause disease. For instance, lack or inadequate sidewalks and recreational centers may discourage physical activities and contribute to obesity or hypertension. While in those places where such amenities are present, the threat to crime keeps people in door. Dilapidated housing is also associated to asthma and mental stressors such as violence.
THE NEGATIVE, POSITIVE AND HOLISTIC CONCEPT OF HEALTH AND ILLNESS.
Health and illness can be defined as negative, positive and holistic. The negative concept of health is the view that being healthy is the absence of illness. For instance, not having any symptom of disease, pain or distress. People of this view believed that good health is normal and they take it for granted that they are well. They sometimes think they do not need any special action to keep them healthy and do not see themselves as ill when they are distressed or cold.
The positive concept of health is a belief that being healthy is a state achieved only by continuous effort. Thus being physically fit and meeting their health. For instance, through the choice of food, by taking exercise and other activities people believe will keep them well. Such people are likely to feel responsible for their own health. They take credit for the absence of disease and blame themselves if symptoms develop. According to this notion people who do not take action to maintain their own health by healthy eating cannot be healthy.
The holistic concept of health on its part is the belief that being healthy means without any physical disorder or disease and being emotionally comfortable. WHO defines health as the state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This embraces all aspects of the individual psychologically, physically, spiritually, environmentally and socially, (Ewles and Simnett, 1992). For instance, a person who feels anxious or who has low self esteem would according to this concept not be well. According to this notion also, people are likely to know that they are ill when they experience any unpleasant feeling not just physical discomfort or pains but are likely to know any minor discomfort such as tiredness as one of the symptoms of illness.
HEALTH INSTITUTIONS, HEALTH WORKERS AND THE PROCESS OF SEEKING MEDICAL CARE.
DEFINITION OF HEALTH INSTITUTIONS
Health institutions can be defined as health care organizations. Health institutions can be classified into two. That is, the public and private. In Nigeria the two operate as parallel organizations, each having its own proprietors. The public oriented health institutions are organized under the auspices of federal and state ministries of health as well as local government authorities. On the other hand, the private health delivery sub-system in Nigeria consists of solo and partnership practitioners. Under this sub-system we also have health facilities built by philanthropic organizations, voluntary agencies etc.