The concept of health was first formulated in the 20th century, with the development of the World Health Organisation. The World Health Organisation defined health as a state of total physical, mental, and social well-being. Its constitution was signed by a distinguished Croatian scholar, Dr Andrija Stampar. Today, the World Health Organization firmly believes that health is more than just the absence of disease. Health is a state of full mental and physical well-being.
The definition of health varies according to the context in which it is used. Most concepts of health make sense primarily within a particular context, which may not be the same in different settings. Moreover, they are socially constructed. Health is often linked to participation in society, which makes it a prime object of political and social action. The definition of health in the Ottawa charter reflects this connection. Its charter describes health as a resource that enhances quality of life and promotes participation in society.
The definition of health in ancient Greek culture is rooted in the belief that health is an integral part of the human experience. Ancient Greeks defined health as a state of balance between the mind and body, a condition of wellbeing that is derived from the natural causes of disease. Chinese and Indian cultures also shared similar views. The 5th century BC’s Pindar defined health by emphasizing the physical aspect of health, the state of comfort, and the absence of pain.
The United Nations (UN) also supports WHO’s mission by supporting various other bodies within the UN family. The General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) all address health-related issues. And the United Nations Children’s Fund supports programs aimed at improving health. Its global health agenda is part of the UN’s wider development work. For example, the United Nations is responsible for ensuring that the children of the world have access to high-quality health care.
Individual behavior is another major determinant of health. People who smoke can reduce their heart disease risk by quitting. Additionally, the environment has an influence on individuals’ overall health and is an important factor in preventing obesity and related diseases. Many public health interventions focus on changing individual behaviors to improve health and reduce chronic diseases in this country. However, there are some biological factors that affect certain populations more than others. For example, older adults have biological tendencies that make them more prone to certain health problems than adolescents.
People with low SES also have less access to health care and are more likely to have problems related to daily living. These factors can exacerbate both physical and mental health problems. Social determinants of health are discussed in Section 9.