Due to the great strides made over the years in health care, it has now become possible to approach solutions to prevention and treatment in a multi-faceted way, and the scales are now tilting toward prevention as a more cost-effective method of treating disease. The multi-factorial model is one such approach where factors, commonly ignored, can contribute significantly to the onset of disease. These may include, but not limited to, biological factors, social-cultural issues, the environment we live in and stress. According to an article published by psychology-health, these variables need to be considered in order to better diagnose a disease (Psychology-Health, 2008).
Examples of biological factors which may influence disease are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, birth defects, medical histories, age and even gender. If any of these are already present, then the likelihood of ailment is more severe. Coronary heart disease is a particular favorite for a diet rich in fats and cholesterol and lack of exercise since these two contribute to a constriction of blood flow. Additionally, a medical history where a family member has experienced a certain disease may very well indicate a likelihood of recurrence on another family member.
It is also important to investigate the other factors when trying to reach a correct diagnosis. A patient’s income level, ability to access healthcare, the burden of many dependants and depression are all areas which may introduce the kind of stress which can compromise immunity and cause unexplainable headaches and coronary heart diseases. Additionally, a polluted environment where exposure to harmful gases, noise and the elements is an everydayoccurrence, significantly compromises health. In a multi-factorial model, therefore, all these issues must be investigated in order to avoid repeated incidence of disease and proper diagnosis.
In order to better understand the multi-factorial model, it is prudent to briefly describe two common diseases that may very well support use of the model in their diagnosis. One of them is headaches, of which there are two types, primary and secondary. Primary headaches are not caused by other conditions and are classified under migraine, tension and cluster headaches. On the other hand, secondary headaches result from diseases like brain tumors, strokes, meningitis, subarachnoid hemorrhages, caffeine withdrawal, or discontinuation of analgesics (Dennis Lee, n.d.). Of the two types of headache, the former is the more common and millions of people all over the world regularly complain of migraines and tension headaches. With proper consultation, it is possible to narrow down the causes for this type of headache. Prominent among the causes for migraine is stress whose onset may be triggered by a noisy environment or anxiety of a situation, for example, a pending court case or a sick dependant. Low self esteem may also cause depression which may in turn lead to stress. The environment is another factor of significance in diagnosing the cause or causes of a headache. Working in a poorly lit area may cause eye-strain which then leads to a headache. The important thing to remember here is that it is very important to carefully review daily lifestyle in order to pinpoint areas that may need improvement or change. Leaving a well paying but demanding, stressful job may lead to a healthier lifestyle. A crime prone, noisy neighborhood may also mean deterioration of health caused by stress and anxiety. The solution, therefore, may in the long run be a composition of medication and better, more wholesome living.
The other common ailment is coronary heart disease. When plaque, which is made up of fats, cholesterol and calcium, builds up in the arteries, they narrow down and block the flow of oxygen-rich nutrients and blood to the heart muscles. This leads to lack of oxygen to the heart and may cause heart attacks and angina. If the heart does not receive enough blood, the muscles slowly weaken, leading also to a condition called arrhythmias ( National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2009). When this happens, the heart experiences an irregular heartbeat. If this goes unchecked, death frequently occurs. In the multi-factorial model, several factors may be at play and it is advisable that where possible, certain lifestyle changes are made. Of primary importance is a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Keeping in good physical shape is also recommended as a good deterrent. Additionally, stress related situations should be avoided because they release adrenaline and non-adrenaline into the blood stream which complicates matters because these two substances are known to play a major role in heart failure (Psychology-Health, 2008). Further, a polluted environment, a family history of heart conditions, are all contributing factors.
Clearly, a multi-factorial approach to disease diagnosis is very important. Even though only two diseases have been mentioned, there are a host of other ailments whose dignosis lends credence to this model. Diabetes, for instance, may be both hereditary and diet related. Cancer, Alcoholism, poor eye-sight and many others, are diseases which may be caused by factors which can be arrested in time. With the multi-factorial model, it is possible to manage these diseases and make a significant contribution to heath care costs all over the world. Where possible, caregivers and doctors must be trained to use this approach as an initial point of entry during any diagnosis.
In this era of a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment, psychologists have found a niche in the prevention and management of diseases. With headaches for example, a positive attitude towards life and an environment which is stress free, goes a long way in the prevention of most types of migraine headache. Psychologists are able to help by providing techniques such as biofeedback training which helps to relieve bodily tension and life stresses ( Associated Content, 2008). They help patients and families cope and manage with the diseases. Further, psychologists believe that behavior plays a critical role in the onset of migraines and especially tension headaches. Those who are self critical, easily stressed and do not have faith in external remedies but themselves, are especially prone.
The role of psychologists is therefore very crucial because they act as an anchor and provide the needed support where families and friends can’t or won’t help. They demystify disease and clothe it in easily understood terms. They teach that with a change in behavior or environment, it is possible to cope with a disease. Apart from medicine, psychologists also advocate and spend time teaching the merits of support, encouragement, meditation, good diet and proper hygiene in order to maintain good health. No matter how dreadful a disease, it may only take an encouraging word of support to reduce a stress related condition.
The multi-factorial model, therefore, can be said to be on an even par with medicine in treatment of disease. Like a nagging youngster, it is all too commonly ignored. But research and experience has shown that, where all else fails, it is usually this approach which is finally resorted to.
Associatedcontent (2008, June), Cancer and Headaches, Retrieved July 1, 2009 from
Dennis Lee, M.D. (n.d.), Questions to ask your Doctor about Headaches, Retrieved
July 1, 2009 from http://medicinenet.com/headache/article.htm
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (2009, February), What Is Coronary Artery
Disease?, Retrieved July 1, 2009 from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Cad/CAD_WhatIs.html
Psychology-Health (n.d.), The Multi-Factorial Model, Retrieved July 1, 2009 from