The modifiable and non-modifiable health determinants help us to understand how much control an individual has over their own health. You have already covered the health determinants as socioeconomic, sociocultural, individual, and environmental factors. This dash point “modifiable and non-modifiable health determinants” in the Preliminary PDHPE syllabus seeks to identify which of the determinants can be modified and which cannot. The syllabus also asks you to:
- assess the degree of control individuals have over their health, by exploring questions such as:
- how much control do individuals have over the determinants?
- what can individuals do to modify the determinants they have little control over?
How much control do individuals have over the determinants?
Modifiable means that it can be changed and as such it can be controlled to a certain extend. Below is a list of the determinants which are modifiable:
- knowledge, skills, attitude (individual)
- peers, religion (sociocultural)
- employment, education, income (socioeconomic)
- geographical location, access to health services and technology (environmental)
It should be clear that some of these modifiable determinants are more easily changed than others. For example, to change your employment can be a very hard thing to do, especially if you also need to improve your education in order to do this. It can also be very difficult to change geographical location, especially if there is a cultural or family connection to your current location. Often moving also requires money, which the individual may or may not have. So, although these are modifiable, the degree to which a person is able to change them and to what extent they can change them will vary from person to person.
The difficulty in changing any of these modifiable health determinants also depends on the individuals age, however, this will be discussed under the changing influence of determinants through different life stages.
Shifting from the modifiable to the non-modifiable health determinants we have the following:
- genetics (individual)
- family, media, culture (sociocultural)
These non-modifiable health determinants are never able to be changed.
Understanding the modifiable and non-modifiable health determinants helps us to better understand why some people can feel powerless when it comes to improving their health, while others feel they can easily change.
What can individuals do to modify the determinants they have little control over?
Sometimes the answer to this question is very little. In order to change some of the modifiable health determinants individuals need a context where this is possible. People’s actions are also affected by how easy the determinant is to change. Not many people are willing to quit their job and move house in the hope of improving their health.
However, there are many things individuals can do to improve their health determinants. For example, an individual can choose to have a positive attitude towards their health and to make it a priority. They can seek to improve their level of education increasing their knowledge and skills, which will in turn increase their employment options and possible income. An individual, could choose to spend time with peers who also prioritise their health and engage in more protective rather than risk behaviours. An individual can also move location to an environment more conducive to health.