Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition of “complete physical, mental and emotional well being and not just the absence of sickness and infirmity.” In fact, the definition has become so broad that today it is often used in place of the broader notion of well-being. A number of definitions have also been applied to different purposes over the years. The most common ones, however, all agree on the general principle that health implies “the absence of harmfulness or danger” and being healthy generally involves the capacity to perceive, evaluate, assess, treat, prevent or heal. Thus, it is considered the state of good health.
Of course, the first step towards acquiring it is to identify the various diseases and the health related issues they may cause. This requires an individual assessment that may involve consultation with healthcare providers, nurses and other members of the health care team. Other relevant considerations include the knowledge and behavior of individuals to identify what could be a threat to their health. A more specific definition can then be developed based on these considerations.
For example, the definition of good health may be influenced by the social concepts of what constitutes normality. In order to adopt the second definition, a person must also accept that he/she is prone to disease because of a genetic predisposition. This predisposition or genetic predisposition may have developed through environmental factors such as life experiences or historical events. Alternatively, people may develop diseases that are not at all genetic, but are based on poor choices or unhealthy behaviors. It may also be argued that good health is only attainable through the absence of serious disease.
In other words, health is not something that can be attained by staying healthy on one’s own. Instead, it should be seen as a relational concept where healthy behaviors facilitate the achievement of the definition of good health. A society in which everyone is healthy will not only have high expectancy rates, it will also promote the prevention of diseases. This approach is the perspective of most advocates of comprehensive public health programs and hence, the focus on prevention of diseases rather than cure.
The third definition is also known as the minimal definition of health, which focuses on the level of severity of diseases and disability that must be endured in order to threaten the survival of a person. This approach places greater emphasis on the extent and longevity of diseases rather than their symptoms. For instance, a person may suffer from chronic mild dysentery, which may lead to death, yet be defined as a minor physical illness that requires immediate medical attention.
Comprehensive health programs often integrate all three definitions: the minimum definition of health, the complete definition of health, and the minimal requirement of wellness. Each has different characteristics that set it apart from the other. For example, the complete requirement of health emphasizes prevention over treatment of any existing physical ill-health. On the other hand, the minimum requirement emphasizes prompt medical attention in cases where the presence of a physical problem does not threaten a person’s life.