Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is “the condition of being fit and well”. Various definitions have also been applied over the years for various purposes. The ultimate definition of health is to be fit and capable of carrying out the activities of daily life in a normal and proper way. It is considered a state when one experiences no restrictions on his/her capacity to enjoy the ordinary things of life.
The definition emphasizes the need for having the ability to enjoy the normal range of activities even under adverse conditions, and this is achieved through the ability to cope with diseases, injuries, and illnesses. The importance of health has increased significantly with the increase in the ratio of people with chronic diseases and increased use of prescription medicines, as well as poor nutrition and lack of exercise. According to a 2021 WHO study on health and fitness, states that provided they have a healthy lifestyle, they would have a greater chance of avoiding chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Therefore, an optimal state of health should include the ability to avoid such diseases and better cope with them.
The next question is how to achieve this optimal state of health. The three definitions put forward in the previous paragraph provide some guidance but they are only applicable if the person is aware of what is meant by each word and has some idea of what each word means in a more complete definition. The first is defined as “the absence of disease or other impairment that prevents the normal functioning of a body part of the body generally”. This definition implies that health is a prerequisite before carrying out any activity or exercise. It also implies that health can be achieved through avoidance of disease or disability. The second definition is the second one and defines health as the absence of all physical disorders, the state of total well-being or indigence.
The third definition of health emphasizes the contribution of the physical environment to health and well-being. It includes two risk factors – exposure to disease and the frequency of use of health services. It suggests that these risks should be reduced as much as possible so as to achieve overall health.
Each of the three definitions of health highlights its own limitations. In order to reduce the risks to a minimum, it may be necessary to reduce the social index of ill-health, for instance by limiting alcohol and tobacco use, limiting exposure to indoor air pollution, improving nutritional quality of food in the diet and making better use of preventive services. On the other hand, the goal of improving physical health should not be forgotten. That is why a public health program focusing on physical well-being should be included in the definition of health. Public health programmes should include measures to prevent common illnesses like diabetes, hypertension and obesity by teaching healthy eating habits and regular exercise, promoting physical activity, teaching emotional and mental well-being, developing good sleep habits among adults, and investing in mental health.
A healthy life style with plenty of exercise, sufficient sleep, and a good diet has been found to reduce the occurrence and severity of many types of diseases, even serious ones like heart disease and diabetes. It has also been found to improve survival rates after cancer treatment, lengthen the period of life studied after diagnosis, and delay the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and certain cancers. Although it is relatively difficult to prevent all diseases, prevention is better than cure. Therefore a healthy lifestyle can be achieved through education, practices and policies aimed at improving the status and health of the population.