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Importance of the Family to the Health of Society

Introduction The family is a prominent feature of every society. This is because very little happens in people’s lives that is not affected by family and that does not, in turn, affect their own family. Not only are families molded by society into whatever forms are functional, but also families contribute significantly to the success of the society to which they belong. Families prepare future citizens and nurture and sustain adults engaged in the day-to-day business of the society.

Health professionals have recently been emphasizing more than ever before that the family is the primary social invention that shapes its members into healthy human beings. Hence, we need, as a society and through the public policy and health care programs, to promote and strengthen the family and seek ways to make families more supportive to its members. Since the family is the basic unit of our society, it is the lone social institution that has the most marked effect on its members. The family strongly influences the development of its members that it may determine the success or failure of that member’s life.

Moreover, the family has long been seen as the most vital context for healthy growth and development. It is the family who provides the critical resource for delivering efficacious health services to its members. The following describes how the family system promotes the health of its members: 1. The family delivers health care to its members. When a family provides care to its members, the level of wellness of the whole family is raised, which in turn significantly raise the wellness of the members of the society (Gilliss & Davis, 1993). 2. The members of a family mutually influence each other.

This is because the family is a closely knit, interdependent network whose members mutually influence each other. Hence, any dysfunction (illness, injury, separation) that affects one or more family members may, and frequently will, in some way affect other members as well as the unit as a whole. 3. The family has a role to play during every facet of health care of its individual members – from health promotion stage through the rehabilitation stage. Hence, a crucial role of the family is assessing and rendering health care for each family member to achieve an optimum level of wellness (Gillis & Davis, 1993). 4.

Each family member reaches to other family members as the presence of health problems in one member may lead to discovery of disease or risk factors in other family members. 5. Finally, each family member can achieve a clearer and more holistic understanding of the other members of the family and their functioning. Further, research in the family health area has clearly demonstrated that families have a powerful impact on family members’ physical health (Campbell, 2000). Turning to the interaction between the family and its members’ health status, the family is the primary source for health and illness notions and health behavior.

Doherty (1992) on the other hand, described that, in one way or another, the family tends to be involved in the decision-making and therapeutic process at every stage of a family member’s health and illness, from the state of being well (when promotion of health and preventive strategies are taught) to diagnosis, treatment, and recuperation. So, families tend to be both a “reactor” to family members’ health problems and an “actor” in determining their health problems. Friedman described various concepts of families.

There are also the ways in which family nurses conceptualize and work with families. These are described as the: (a) Family as context. The first concept of family is that, it is a field where the family is viewed as context to the client or family member (Bozett, 1987; Robinson, 1995). Here, nursing care is individually focused. Typically considered as the client’s most important primary group, the family is visualized typically as a resource to the client. But in some cases, the family is viewed as a stressor.

Further, in this concept, the family is the background or secondary focus and the individual, the foreground or primary focus relative to assessment and intervention; (b) Family as a sum of its members. In this concept of family in family nursing practice, the family is seen as an accumulation or sum of the individual family members. When care is made available to or provided for all the family members, family health care is seen as being provided. This is a model that is implicit to much of practice within family primary care and community health nursing.

So here, the center is each of the clients, but seen as separate rather than interacting units; (c) Family subsystem as client. In this third concept of family nursing practice, family subsystems are the focus and recipient of assessment and intervention. Friedman (1993) and Robinson (1995) refer to this concept as being the basis for interpersonal family nursing. Family dyads, triads, and other family subsystems are the unit of analysis and care. Parent-child relationships, marital interactions, caregiving issues, and bonding-attachment concerns are examples of the nursing foci here;

(d) Family as client. In the fourth concept of family, the entire family is viewed as client or as the primary focus of assessment and care. The family is now in the foreground, with the individual family members in the background or context. The family is viewed as an interactional system. The focus is on internal family dynamics and relationships, the family’s structure and functions, as well as the relationships of family subsystems with the whole and of the family with its outer environment. It is in this conceptualization of family that the unique contributions of family nursing are evident; and

(e) Family as a component of society. The fifth concept of family is described by Hanson (2001) as a component of society. Here, the family is visualized as one subsystem within a larger system—the community, society. The family is seen as one of basic societal institutions, such as the educational, welfare, or religious institutions are. Among these five ‘family’ concepts, the first concept where the family is viewed as context to the client or family member is often used in my area of practice.

This is because nursing care is individually focused here as the medical-surgical oncology unit specializes in caring for patients with cancer. Though, as a nurse, I may involve the family to varying degrees. In some cases, I may assess the family as part of the client’s social support system, but with little incorporation of the family into the client’s plan of care. But there are cases when I may extensively involve the family in the client’s care. I also assess and integrate the family’s tangible and socioemotional impact on the client into the treatment plan.

Further, most nursing theories conceptualize the family’s role in this light. Thus, this concept is helpful as it also views the family as a crucial social environment of the client and hence a primary social support resource. An example is the definition of family-centered care promulgated by the interdisciplinary Association for the Care of Children’s Health (ACCH). They explain that family-centered care is a philosophy of pediatric health care that considers and treats the child in the context of the family and recognizes the family as the primary and continuing provider of care for the child.

This organization stresses that the family is “the constant” in the child’s life (Shelton & Stepanek, 1995) Among the theories presented, the family social science theories would be conducive to my area of practice. Specifically, the family stress theory as it is especially germane to health care situations because of the pervasive illness-related stress the family experiences (Artinian, 1994). It involves dealing with the myriad problems that face an individual suffering from a chronic disease, for example cancer.

What is most important in this theory is that the nursing practitioner work along with the health counselor and the former concentrating on keeping the individual healthy after surgery or medical treatment while the latter concentrating on helping the individual adjust back to “normal” functioning. A chronic disease such as cancer, which is treated by chemotherapy places a massive psychological strain on the patient and on the patient’s family. The chemotherapy becomes the patient’s hope and the patient develops complex feelings toward his or her need to be maintained by this technological marvel.

Strict regimens contribute to the patient’s tendency to develop concomitant psychological problems. Numerous studies have examined the emotional implications of chemotherapy (DeNour & Czakes, 1991) and they generally acknowledge the need for close counseling. As a conclusion, one of the most important aspects of nursing is the emphasis placed on the family unit. The family along with its members is a nursling’s client or recipient of care. Empirically, we realize that the health of family members and the quality of family life are closely related. Until the last decade, however, remarkably little attention has been paid to

the family as an object of systematic study in nursing. But this situation is changing as today the study of families has grown significantly as this paper shows the systematic study of the how the family as a system work as a system in promoting the health of its members, the various concepts of family to be considered in family nursing practice and the family theories and research.

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