Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition of “good health with all the physical aspects of health” and not just the absence of sickness and disease. Various definitions have been employed over the years for various purposes. Some are based on philosophies in universal health care, while others are designed to help demystify the term.
In the United States, the Hippocratic Society, founded by Benjamin Franklin, provided the definition of “healthful living” in 1844. It included life course studies, physical nature of the diseases, and philosophy around how to balance both physical and mental health and develop a culture of trust and communication between patients and their physicians. According to this definition, public health is “the use of general knowledge about the causes, prevention, and treatment of diseases”. Other definitions include the public good as the primary objective of health: to provide the means for everyone to lead a quality life.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines good health as “a healthy body that limits the possibility of death due to any cause”. It is also necessary to maintain a high level of fitness. This definition excludes all incurable or treatable diseases. This definition is very broad, however, because it also includes the avoidance of diseases through vaccination. The prevention of death and serious illness is also included in this definition.
An interesting definition is that by its very nature, “health” is a subjective concept that can only be properly understood by the person who experiences it. If that person has a good health, then that person’s life is characterized by a period of good health and prosperity, regardless of his or her circumstances. This is contrary to a definition of “disease” where the absence of the disease defines the quality of life. For example, if there were no coughs, no fever, and no infection, then this would not be a case of “chronic diseases”. However, those three indicators could certainly describe what happens to a person when he or she becomes sick.
In addition to health policies’ definitions, a variety of concepts and variables are included in the debate over what the definition of “healthy” really is. For some time, researchers have debated whether the definition should be influenced by economic theories about motivation to avoid pain and suffering or social definitions of happiness. Researchers who support a goal of long life expectancy often point out that money will eventually dry up, while emotional well-being will remain intact. Consequently, a policy that helps a person achieve long life expectancy through prevention of chronic diseases is likely to be considered a healthy policy.
On the other hand, some researchers argue that health determinants cannot be viewed in isolation from lifestyle and personal values. These determinants are part of a complex interplay. For example, an individual’s education may influence his or her chances of staying healthy and even thriving. Similarly, environmental factors like pollution can adversely affect a person’s health status. On the other hand, genetic factors play a major role in determining health status.