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MSBM09003 Health Illness and Society 3 : Human Well-Being and Ecosystem Services

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1. Critically compare different theories of physical and mental health, including biological, environmental and sociological theories

 Write a paragraph of at least 100 words on each of the following theories on prehistoric Era:

  • Egyptian period

  • Greek period (600-300BC)
  • Roman period (27BC – AD 478) refer to Dr Galen (AD129 – 216Renaissances Era AD1400-1750), Rebirth of Sceince knowledge, Medieval Era AD 500-1400, Roman Empire Collapsed in 405AD.
  • Industrial Biological (AD 800 – 1900) Europe becomes industrailised
  • Prehistoric era, what they believe, methods of treatment to illnesses
2.1 Give a definition of health

2.2 Evaluate the usefulness of the World Health Organisation definition of health

3.1 Evaluate, with examples, the benefits of epidemiological studies for understanding the causes of illness


1: Theories of Physical and Mental Health

The theories of physical and mental health have been changing over the years. This has to happen because of research and the persistent changes in views, beliefs and diseases in the society. Human history is mainly divided into two parts. The first part is prehistory which occurred before the invention of writing technology. In the pre-history era, people believed that diseases were caused by fractures, bruises, and breakage of bones (Krieger 2014). During this time, the main disease was osteoarthritis which was caused by the lifting of heavy objects like stones which were done as daily activities for the prehistoric man.

During the Egyptian Civilization, people believed that the mental and physical illnesses were associated with supernatural causes (Krieger 2014). These are the theories that were relied upon to explain why people suffered from certain diseases such as mental disorders (Di Cesare, et al 2013). According to the supernatural theories, diseases were believed to be caused by the supernatural forces such as gods and devils that would make people to suffer diseases because of their disobedience that might cause curses and punishment to them.  

In the Ancient Greek, people believed in the somatogenic and psychogenic causes for diseases. The Greeks believed in somatic theories which emphasized that diseases were caused by the impairment of physical health and traumatic experiences.  This is what would make people to experience mental disorders (Ryff & Singer 2013). The Greeks also believed in the theory of hysteria which linked disease out breaks to the ‘wandering womb.’ According to this theory, diseases would erupt as a result of the infection of the uterus that would spread diseases to other parts of the body. The application of this theory helped in justifying the occurrence of diseases in all the parts of the human body.

The belief held by human beings on the causes of diseases drastically changed during the Roman and renaissance periods. During this period, the miasmatic theory was used to explain the causes of diseases. The theory was advanced by Claudius Galenus (Galen) who in her miasmatic theory, held that diseases like Black Death, chlamydia, and cholera were caused by pollution (miasma as he called it). Meaning, according to Galen, diseases were mainly caused by environmental factors.  Meaning, the existent of impurities in the environment was believed to the main cause of diseases in the society. Later Galen discovered the Theriac to treat diseases.

During the industrial revolution, people believed in the Germ theory. Germ theory was popular during this era because people believed that diseases were caused by living organisms or pathogens or germs. It was held that once the germs get entry into the human body, they would reproduce, multiply, and cause diseases that would affect the people. The pathogens which cause infectious diseases are bacteria, fungi, and virus. They are microscopic and cannot be seen with naked eyes. Although such diseases are caused by pathogens, their severity can be determined by hereditary and environmental factors (Agarwala, et al 2014). 

2: Usefulness of the World Health Organization Definition of Health

Health is defined as a state of wellness. Wellness in this case refers to a state of physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. A healthy person is therefore an individual who enjoys a state of wellness in all these areas. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as not just the absence of diseases, but as a state of complete social, mental, and physical well-being.  The WHO’s definition is quite significant in the healthcare sector because it promotes the delivery of holistic healthcare services to the patients. It has greatly impacted on healthcare in different ways.

The first significance of the WHO’s definition is that it advocates for the promotion of physical health. Human beings should be physically-healthy. Meaning, the body should be free from any injuries or ailments that might cause an unnecessary discomfort. Physical fitness is important because it can enable human beings to engage in daily activities, occupations, and sports. These are the motor activities which require energy to be adequately conducted. They are crucial for everyday living as well as income generation (Daugherty, et al 2017). All the human beings including the athletes and sportsmen and women require physical fitness. Therefore, to achieve physical fitness, individuals should have adequate time to rest; create enough time to engage in moderate and vigorous physical exercises; and get access to a healthy diet.

The second benefit of the WHO’s definition of health is that it advocates for individuals’ psychological well-being. It is important to recognize and care for people’s psychological health because it plays a significant role in their lives. For everyone to enjoy a good health, they need to be psychologically-fit. Cases of stress, depression, and anxiety are not good for human beings because they can make one to lead to a poor state of health.  Research has proven that psychological health counts a lot because many people have died because of emotional distress (Ryff & Singer 2013). Therefore, whenever a patient seeks for medical attention, the healthcare provider should be ready to deliver a holistic care that also encompasses psychological support. It can facilitate the recovery process because it relieves the patient of any unnecessary distresses..  

Moreover, the WHO’s definition of health has helped in recognizing and addressing the mental and spiritual health of the patients. For healthcare services to be satisfactory, it needs to encompass the physical, psychological, and spiritual components of care. In case any of these is overlooked, the patient might not fully recover and improve the health status. WHO, therefore acknowledges that people should be provided with quality mental and spiritual care (Agarwala, et al 2014). It can enable them to enjoy a good health. Spirituality, for instance, should be considered when delivering healthcare services because it gives people a satisfaction, hope, and self-fulfillment. It is for this reason that the people who are seeking for palliative care should be given spiritual support because it is necessary for the patients and families nursing end-of-life illnesses.

Last, but by no means the least, the definition of health by the WHO is instrumental in promoting people’s social well-being.   The recognition of social aspect of human health is a commendable thing. It has helped in promoting the provision of social health for people in the society. It is advisable for people to enjoy social health because a good relationship with the loved ones, friends, colleagues, and community members can guarantee an individual a healthy life. When a person develops a god interpersonal relationship with others, he can be in a state of good health because he cannot have anything to worry him (Walker, et al 2015). Through this definition, people can be encouraged to learn and acquire competent social skills that can enable them to lead a healthy life in the midst of others in the community. It is necessary to develop such social skills since human being is a social creature whose life can be meaningless. All these aspects of care should be promoted when attending to patients.  

3: The Benefits of Epidemiological Studies for understanding the Causes of Illness

Epidemiology refers to the study of diseases that affect people in the society. Over the years, the society has been subjected to numerous diseases that affect both the human beings, animals and plants as well. Sometimes, there are pandemics and epidemics that end up causing lots of problems in the society. However, it should be much better if the authority collaborates with experts to study the diseases and look for the best ways through which they can be addressed (Binswanger, Mueller, Beaty, Min & Corsi 2014). Epidemiology has been beneficial in the following ways:

First, epidemiology has been helpful in determining the causes of diseases. Basically, there are so many kinds of diseases each of which having a specific cause. Some of the major causes of diseases are injuries, malnutrition, and pathogens like bacteria, fungi, and virus. These are the facts that can be studied by the epidemiologists and disseminated to the public to understand. At the same time, epidemiologists help in studying the risk factors that expose people to diseases (Haugan 2014). Therefore, by studying and informing the people on the causes and risk factors for diseases, epidemiologists help in creating awareness on many diseases. For example, if people get information on the causes of diseases, they can do their best to eradicate them.

Besides, epidemiologists study and predict the pattern of epidemics. Epidemics are disease infections that occur on a wide scale and affect a large section of the community. Depending on the magnitude, an epidemic can affect a family, neighborhood, district, state, nation, or countries. Examples of serious epidemics in human history are polio, Ebola, zika virus, influenza, TB, small pox, cholera, malaria, AIDS, Black Death, typhus, and yellow fever. Epidemiology is therefore important because it helps in conducting a research to determine the pattern of the occurrence of such epidemics and predict any other outbreak that might erupt at any given time (Modise & Johannes 2016). This is an important thing to do because it helps in protecting people from the effects of such epidemics.

Lastly, epidemiological studies help in informing the public on the protective factors for the diseases affecting the people. Epidemiological studies are not only concentrated on the causes and pattern, but the protective measures for diseases as well (Goryakin, Lobstein, James & Suhrcke 2015). This is a good thing to do because it helps in creating awareness on the measures that should be taken to protect people from contracting diseases. Prevention is a very important thing to do because it can prepare people to protect themselves from any infections. For example, through epidemiology, people have learnt to refrain from unhealthy practices like smoking, and physical inactivity because it exposes them to diseases like obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Protection is better because helps in creating a disease-free society for all.

Epidemiology is therefore an important activity that should be promoted. The government should allocate adequate resources to be used in supporting epidemiology research. It should be an important segment of public health that is dedicated to carrying out scientific studies and generating findings and recommendations that can be relied upon by the policy makers as well as the general public to enable them take the necessary precautionary measures to prevent disease outbreaks.  It can eradicate ignorance which has been a major issue of concern in public health (Costa-Font & Mas 2016). When people are informed in time, they can be empowered to make rational decisions that can enhance their health and prevent them from unnecessary infections and deaths that can be prevented.


Agarwala, M., et al., 2014, Assessing the relationship between human well-being and ecosystem services: a review of frameworks. Conservation and Society, 12(4), 437.

Binswanger, I. A., Mueller, S.R., Beaty, B.L., Min, S.J., & Corsi, K.F., 2014, Gender and risk behaviors for HIV and sexually transmitted infections among recently released inmates: a prospective cohort study. AIDS care, 26(7), 872-881.

Costa-Font, J., & Mas, N., 2016, ‘Globesity’? The effects of globalization on obesity and caloric intake. Food Policy, 64, 121-132.

Daugherty, T. K., et al., 2017, Beyond the Absence of Disease or Infirmity: The Case for Sexual Wellness. College Student Journal, 50(3), 404-408.

Di Cesare, M., et al., 2013, Inequalities in non-communicable diseases and effective responses. The Lancet, 381(9866), 585-597.

Goryakin, Y., Lobstein, T., James, W.P.T., & Suhrcke, M., 2015, The impact of economic, political and social globalization on overweight and obesity in the 56 low and middle income countries. Social Science & Medicine, 133, 67-76.

Haugan, G., 2014, Meaning?in?life in nursing?home patients: a valuable approach for enhancing psychological and physical well?being?. Journal of clinical nursing, 23(13-14), 1830-1844.

Krieger, N., 2014. Got theory? On the 21st c. CE rise of explicit use of epidemiologic theories of disease distribution: A review and ecosocial analysis. Current Epidemiology Reports, 1(1), pp.45-56.

Modise, L., & Johannes, M. L., 2016, Well-Being and Wellness in the Twenty-First Century: A Theanthropocosmic Approach. Journal of religion and health, 55(6), 1876-1890.

Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H., 2013, Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. In The exploration of happiness (pp. 97-116). Springer Netherlands.

Walker, J., et al., 2015, Optimal health (spirit, mind, and body): A feasibility study promoting well-being for health behavior change. Journal of religion and health, 54(5), 1681-1698.

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