| Population and Health |
A group discussion accompanied by the use of flash cards to promote understanding of the negative impact of rapid population growth on the basic factors necessary for good health.
FOR WHAT? / WHY?
So that group members will be able to:
Some background information for the group leader
What do we mean by good health?
By good health we mean the set of conditions necessary for our bodies and minds to function efficiently. Some important things in maintaining good health are:
How are these factors affected by rapid population growth?
Nutrition. Rapid population growth can result in a decrease in quantity and quality of food per person. This can cause malnutrition and a decrease in resistance to disease. (See the module on Population and Nutrition for more information.)
Clean and safe drinking water. Clean water for household use is a basic requirement for good health. In many areas, there is not enough safe water. Rapid increases in population may force people to use unsafe water supplies such as polluted rivers and stagnant ponds. This leads to increases in infectious diseases, diarrhœa and dysentery, and also to water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis (bilharzia).
Clean and safe drinking water
Rest and sleep. In large families, the workload for the mother and father increases and they often have too little time to rest. This can make their bodies weak and they can easily become sick. This is an especially difficult problem for women with large, young families.
Note: You may wish to consider a soap-making project as a group income-generating activity.
Good sanitation. Good waste disposal facilities are a key to disease control. When the population in a village or community increases too rapidly, it can overburden sanitation facilities. When this happens, waste is often dumped into rivers or streams, creating a major health hazard.
Personal hygiene. Keeping our bodies and clothes clean helps to prevent the spread of disease. In many areas, soap and clean water are limited and rapid increases in population may mean that people, especially children, are inadequately washed and clothed.
Immunization against diseases. Certain diseases which once killed large numbers of people - polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, tuberculosis, measles, German measles - can now be prevented by vaccination. The World Health Organization (WHO) has protected millions of people from these diseases and some, for example, smallpox, have been completely eliminated. But rapid increases in population are making it difficult if not impossible to reach everyone with the necessary vaccinations.
Adequate provision and use of health and medical facilities. As the population increases, more and more people need health services. Thus, either more and more people have to share the existing services, in which case the quality of service declines; or health services have to he increased, i.e., more doctors, more nurses and more hospitals and health facilities. But there are two problems: first, it takes time to train doctors or build hospitals; second, it costs money.
In many countries, government money for health care is limited and so health facilities cannot keep up with population growth. Therefore, a rapid increase in the number of people may mean an increase in the number of people without access to adequate health care.
Adequate housing. When a family increases in size, the size of the house cannot always be increased. In fact, what usually happens is that more people share a room, or a bed or even sleep on the floor. These crowded conditions are had for both physical and mental health.
Food hygiene. Proper preparation of food is important in maintaining health, especially among children. When the population increases rapidly, wood and other fuels for cooking often become limited in supply. As a result, food may be poorly cooked and disease may easily be spread. Unclean food is a major cause of dysentery, one of the biggest killers of young children.
Control of pests (rodents, mosquitoes, flies). The increased waste produced by rapidly growing populations creates excellent breeding grounds for disease-carrying pests. The control of these pests requires increased care and expenditure, but in many cases the necessary resources are not available.
Control of environmental and industrial pollution. As populations increase, there is a need for increased industrial production - more mining, more factories, more vehicles, etc. Unfortunately, in many areas around the world (not only in the developing countries) industry is being developed without proper thought for the environment. The result can he pollution of the basic natural resources we need to survive - air, water, agriculturally productive land, etc. This is discussed in more detail in the module on Population and Environment.
Control of environmental and industrial pollution
Accident prevention (in the home, at work, on the roads, etc.). In the home, large families tend to he overcrowded and the parents are usually overworked and tired. Under these conditions, accidents are common. A worker with a large family who is tired or badly nourished is much more likely to have accidents on the job or at home. Rapid increases in population lead to more traffic on streets and roads. Lorries and buses meant for only a few people, or not for transport of people at all, are often badly overcrowded and accidents are frequent.
Who is responsible for the health of the people?
People sometimes think that health is a service that should be provided by the government or the community. But it is important to understand that everyone has a personal responsibility for his or her own health, as well as that of the community.
It is up to each one of us as an individual to take care of our own health - to ensure that we consider each of the basic needs for good health on the preceding pages. In addition, we each have a responsibility to be certain that what we do does not damage the health of others.
For example, we need to be sure that the way we dispose of waste does not create a breeding ground for pests and diseases which can affect our neighbours. The effect of family size decisions on the rest of the community should also be considered. For example, what effect will a large family have on the ability of the community to provide good health and immunization services for everyone?