Topic Specific Language 3: Health

To continue my series of the common themes and topics for the IELTS, for today, it’s the turn of health. As usual, you will find some sample essay questions, ideas to answer them, example essays, and finally some specific language about health for you to use. Feel free to copy anything here, no worries, the essays are just to give you an idea of structure which I have written about in earlier posts. As always, any questions, feel free to message me anytime at

Topic Specific Language: Health

Essay Questions

The prevention of illness is more important than treatment. Government expenditure should reflect this fact.

To what extent do you agree?

The number of people who are at risk of serious illness due to obesity is increasing.

What is the reason for obesity in society?

How can this problem be solved?

More time should be spent in school on sport and exercise to resolve the problem of overweight schoolchildren.

Do you think this is the best way to solve this problem?

What other solutions are there?

More people are increasingly suffering from modern lifestyle illnesses which cannot be cured by modern medicines. It has been said that a return to a more traditional form of medical treatment should be encouraged.

To what extent do you agree?

Universal free healthcare should be abolished as a person should be held responsible for their own health and wellbeing.

What are the advantages and the disadvantages of free healthcare?

The best way to improve health is by daily exercise.

To what extent do you agree with this opinion?

Some people argue that the government should be held responsible for promoting the public health while others believe it is the duty of the individual to maintain health and fitness.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Doctors have a duty to educate their patients about health.

To what extent would you agree with this opinion?

Walking is proven to be beneficial for maintaining health yet fewer people walk any distance these days.

What are the reasons for this?

What can be done to tackle this problem?

Ideas for essays


Humans need a balanced diet

An unhealthy diet can cause health problems

Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are increasingly

More people are eating fast food or processed meals these days

These unhealthy foods contain too much sugar and salt

People buy them because they are cheap and easy to prepare

Too many young people eat these foods

People in developed countries are becoming increasingly obese


Regular exercise is essential for healthcare

Exercise burns calories and helps to lose weight

Doctors advise regular exercise to their patients

Many people lead sedentary lives nowadays

People walk less and do desk jobs

Many people relax by watching TV and playing on the computer

Children play video games instead of real games

People were more active in the past than today

Role of Government

Government has a significant part to play in reducing obesity

More people are obese these days

Obesity increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes

The taxpayer has to pay for the treatment of these people

Hospitals are becoming overburdened by these self inflicted illnesses

The government should raise awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle

Sport should feature more on the schools curriculum

Junk food should be banned from schools

Information labels should be on every food package

State Healthcare System: advantages

Healthcare should be free to all

State healthcare is paid for by taxation

Everyone has equal access to healthcare

Private healthcare is only affordable by the rich

Private Healthcare: advantages

State hospitals are dirty and overcrowded

Private hospitals are clean and have shorter waiting lists

Patients get better and faster treatment

Patients have their own room and better facilities

Alternative Medicine: advantages

More people are turning to alternative medicines

Alternative treatments such as acupuncture are more popular

Herbal medicines have no side effects

Some alternative cures are centuries old

Alternative medicines: disadvantages

Many treatments have no scientific basis

They may have no effect

They may have side effects

People should trust traditional medicines

An illness might get worse if you don’t see a doctor

Essay Examples

Recent research shows that the consumption of junk food is a major factor in poor diet and this is detrimental to health. Some people believe that better health education is the answer to this problem but others disagree. What is your opinion?

It is generally accepted by scientists that the kind and quality of the food we eat, such as junk food, can have an effect on our health. A possible solution to this issue is better education regarding what food is nutritious or not, although this view does have it’s critics. In my opinion, education to raise awareness of this problem could well help to solve it. This essay will firstly, discuss the importance of an informed food buying public, and secondly, consider the convenience such food offers busy people.

Firstly, focussing on health education is an appropriate measure in that it addresses one of the key causes of the problem. It would be hard to dispute the various scientific research which shows that education, whether about diet or anything else, is a major factor in reducing ignorance, not surprisingly. For example, a recent survey by the University of York into the eating habits of children, revealed that 90 % of those questioned had no clear idea about the importance of eating a varied diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals, etc. As a consequence, the eating habits of the children in that particular survey were found to be less than healthy which may well cause health problems in the future. When the children were questioned further, they all said that if they had known how such food was made and the effects it might have on them, they would think twice about eating it.

Secondly, although better health education may be a solution, it is only a partial one, as there are wider social implications as to why this food is popular. It is probably true that many people eat convenience food because it is precisely that, convenient. Lots of people have busy lifestyles and do not have the time, or so they say, to cook and prepare, or to eat, freshly made tasty and nutritious meals. A good illustration of this is a survey by the fast food chain, Burger King, who surveyed customers in several branches in the UK in 2014 and asked why they came there. One of the most mentioned reasons was convenience and speed of service, alongside other factors such as price, taste, etc. The message here was clear, even though many people agreed that such food was not the healthiest option, the main criteria for them was the speedy delivery of food.

In conclusion, research proves that mass consumption of fast food can cause ill health in some cases. Although I believe that education is a significant determiner of behaviour regarding the choices people make, I have to say that nothing less than a re-evaluation of the modern lifestyle will have any impact on the eating habits of many citizens.

Currently there is a trend towards the use of alternative forms of medicine. However, at best these methods are ineffective, and at worst they may be dangerous.

To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Alternative medicine is increasing in popularity in many countries around the world, however it has been argued that these forms of treatment are not as effective as traditional medicine and may in fact cause harm to the patient. I disagree with this opinion and in this essay I shall, firstly, argue that such treatments, acupuncture for example, is indeed effective and safe, and secondly, that far from being perfect, traditional medicines are as capable as causing harm or being useless as any other.

Firstly, alternative medicine is a broad label and may include Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal remedies and so on. To take the case of acupuncture, this has been gaining in popularity for some years now especially in the area of easing back pain and helping people to stop smoking for example. In fact, many Doctors are recommending some of their patients to try acupuncture for these conditions. A recent survey by the Medical Council of the UK showed that some 75% of GPs have made such a recommendation in the last year. GPs would hardly take risks with their patients health, not to mention their own reputations if they were in any doubt as to the efficiency of such alternative treatments.

Secondly, traditional medicines are not as efficient as might have been thought. An obvious example here is anti-biotics, such as Penicillin. There have been several warnings in the media in the last few years about how an increase in the prescription of anti-biotics by Doctors has led to it becoming less effective, if not useless, against certain strains of bacteria. A recent article in The Lancet (UK Medical practitioners journal) said that unless anti-biotic prescriptions were not restricted to only the most serious infections, there was a serious possibility of so-called “super bugs” springing up which no anti bacterial agent could stop. The consequences of such bacterially immune virus spreading among the population are too terrible to contemplate.

In conclusion, despite alternative medicine being criticised in some quarters, in my view such methods of treatment (such as acupuncture) are just as valid as are traditional medicines based upon drugs. My recommendation here would be that both methods could well be used complementarily depending on what the patients problem is.

In some countries the average weight of people is increasing and their levels of health and fitness are decreasing.

What do you think are the causes of these problems and what measures could be taken to solve them?

In several countries there has been an increase in the average weight of the population along with a related decrease in the general levels of fitness. I believe these problems are caused by poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle. This essay will describe how fast food and the way work has changed as the principal causes, and suggest a joint government and employer initiative as a possible solution.

Firstly, one of the main causes of the health crisis currently affecting so many individuals is over-consumption of poor quality convenience and junk food, such as microwave dinners, chocolate bars, McDonald’s and pizza, which have become a ubiquitous part of modern life. An excellent example of this is the recent film ‘Super Size Me’ where the character challenged himself to only eat McDonald’s food for one month. What this demonstrated as before and after medical tests showed, is that a person who eats this kind of food all the time will not only get fat, but also suffer from raised blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and possibly heart disease in later life. Added to this the dangers of a sedentary life, as many jobs are office based desk jobs these days, and it is apparent of the dangers to health that these two factors pose.

To combat these twin dangers to public health, I would argue that a simple solution to this problem is a government sponsored awareness campaign, to warn of the dangers of a poor diet and hopefully raise awareness amongst the public. However, this in itself may not be sufficient. As mentioned above, the sedentary nature of the workplace these days is also partly to blame. Therefore, if employers were, for example, to install gym equipment on their premises or offer subsidised gym memberships to it’s workers then the opportunities would exist for workers to take some exercise during the work day and help to offset this condition. A recent survey of employees in the UK suggested that if employers took such measures 85% of their staff would seriously think about making use of these options which could potentially have a significant impact on the public health.

In conclusion, average weights have increased and fitness levels have decreased, caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. This essay recommends that governments should take a greater role in educating their citizens of the risks this lifestyle may cause, and that employers should take some responsibility for providing their workers with the necessary conditions for exercise.

Topic Specific Language


aches and pains: minor pains that continue over a period of time

to be a bit off colour: to feel a little ill

to be at death’s door: (informal) to be very ill indeed

to be on the mend: to be recovering after an illness

to be over the worst: to have got through the most serious or uncomfortable stage of an illlness

to be under the weather: (informal) to not feel well

a blocked nose: when the nose has excess fluid due to a cold

to catch a cold: to get a cold

a check-up: a physical examination by a doctor

a chesty cough: a cough caused by congestion around the lungs

cuts and bruises: minor injuries

to feel poorly: to feel ill

as fit as a fiddle: to be very healthy

to go down with a cold: to become ill

to go private: to choose to be treated by commercial healthcare rather than by services offered by the state

GP: General Practitioner (family doctor)

to have a filling: to have a tooth repaired

to have a tooth out: to have a tooth removed

a heavy cold: a bad cold

to make an appointment: to arrange a time to see the doctor

to make a speedy recovery: to recover quickly from an illness

to phone in sick: to call work to explain you won’t be attending work due to illness

prescription charges: money the patient pays for medicine authorised by a doctor

to pull a muscle: to strain a muscle

a runny nose: a nose that has liquid coming out of it

a sore throat: inflammation that causes pain when swallowing


Part 1

Q: “Have you got a relation you’re particularly fond of?”

A: “Yes, my granddad, you know he’s in his seventies now but I would say he’s as fit as a fiddle. Really, we’re very close and see each other a lot and whenever he goes down with a cold or is under the weather I go round and see him, make him some tea and soup, all those kind of things.”

Q: “Do you do any sport?”

A: “Yes, I’m really keen on skating, on roller-blades I mean, but I haven’t done it for a while. I had a bad fall recently and pulled a muscle and had a few cuts and bruises, nothing serious mind. I’m on the mend now and hope to be doing it again soon, skating that is, not falling over.”

Q: “Is there anything you’re particularly afraid of?”

A: “I would say the dentist, like a lot of people I suppose, I absolutely hate going to the dentist. I know I should go more often for a checkup and that, but really I only ever go if I have a toothache so it usually means I have to have a filling or even have a tooth out.

Part 2

Describe a time when you were ill. You should say:

  • when this was
  • what your symptoms were
  • how long the illness lasted

and say how it affected your life at the time.

A: “Ok, I want to talk about a time a while back when I was feeling ill. This is a tricky one really as I’m usually quite healthy, I’ve never been seriously ill, like everyone else I sometimes get a few aches and pains from playing sport or what have you, or I might catch a cold but nothing too serious. Anyway, I can remember a few months ago I had to have time off work with a particularly heavy cold, it was more like flu to be honest. I woke up one morning and I had the usual symptoms, you know, a blocked nose and a sore throat. This time it lasted quite a while, about 2 weeks I think though I didn’t have that much time off work. For the first few days I remember feeling poorly and pretty rough but I was over the worst of it after a few days and went back to work. I didn’t feel too clever but I always find it’s better to be active when you feel ill as it keeps your mind off your symptoms. Anyway, I think my family get a little fed up with me when I’m ill though, I tend to feel sorry for myself and lie on the sofa all day as if I’m at death’s door but as I said earlier on this occasion it was nothing serious and didn’t really cause me any problems. I hope that, in the future, if I am sick again, it won’t last long like this time as I really hate feeling that way, but you never know, right?”

Part 3

Q: “What costs are involved when you are ill in your country?
A: “Well, you know, it’s free to see a Dr and then after that people have to pay prescription charges which can be a bit expensive but fortunately general healthcare is free unless you want to go private of course and then you can pay a fortune for your treatment. Not something I can afford however”

Q: “In your experience are people too quick to take time off work when they’re ill?”
A: “Yes, quite often these days it seems, for example, I’ve got friends who have a day off work if they wake up with a runny nose, however, in most cases they seem to make a speedy recovery quick enough after they’ve phoned in sick.”

Q: “Do women pay more attention to their health than men?”
A: “I think so yes, women are more likely to see their GP for a check-up if they’re concerned about something, whereas a lot of men tend to avoid facing up to any health problems they have For example my dad always seems to have a very chesty cough but refuses to go to make an appointment to see the doctor.”