The word “health” is a broader term, encompassing a number of aspects, including physical appearance, mental state, and social well-being. Historically, the WHO defined health as the absence of disease, but it is no longer fit for purpose. The current focus on health must shift from disease prevention and disease treatment to the ability to manage life’s circumstances. The definition of health has been evolving for decades, but it still reflects a basic understanding of the concept.
In Canguilhem’s 1943 book The Normal and the Pathological, he rebuffed the notion of “normal” and “pathological” states of health, instead viewing health as an individual’s ability to cope with an environment. He emphasized that there is no fixed notion of health – it varies with every individual and is determined by the person’s functional needs. Therefore, the physician’s role is to facilitate the patient’s ability to adapt to any condition, whether it’s physical or mental.
In 1948, the World Health Organization’s constitution defined health as a fundamental human right. According to the document, everyone has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health, regardless of age, political belief, or economic status. This concept of health is recognized by a number of nation states, including the U.S. and Canada, and many others have adopted it into their constitutions. This means that nations are legally required to protect access to high-quality health and make provisions for the determinants of health.
While WHO defined health broadly half a century ago, health in the United States has historically been assessed through measures of morbidity and mortality. Today, the public health community views health as a complex construct that encompasses mental, physical, and social dimensions. Its definition is broad, and it includes the quality of life, social support, and economic status of communities. All of these factors influence health and contribute to the quality of life of the population.
In contrast to disease, health is a complex concept. An acute disease, for instance, may result in a simple rash, while a severe one may lead to anaphylactic shock, coma, and death. Unlike disease, health is a more abstract concept and often difficult to define. The definition of health should be flexible enough to reflect these conditions. The word health can be defined differently by the different environments people live in.
Mental health and physical health are closely linked. Chronic illness can interfere with everyday tasks and lead to depression, stress, and financial problems. Mental illnesses can also affect body weight and overall function. Therefore, it is essential to aim for a healthy balance between physical and mental health. The definition of mental health varies, depending on what the individual considers to be their ideal level of health. But one thing is for sure – physical health and mental health should be viewed as a two-way street.
An individual’s environment plays an important role in determining their health. The physical, social, and economic environment affect health. Genetics and lifestyle also play an important role in overall health. More socioeconomic status tends to result in better health. The social environment is a key determinant of overall health. Despite this, it’s impossible to define an ideal level of health based on one variable, and a poorer life expectancy and lower self-esteem.