The word “health” has different meanings to different people. To some it is a state of being clean and healthy and to others it is a state of health where nothing is affecting your physical well being. Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is, “a condition of total physical, mental and emotional well-being and not just the absence of illness and disease.” Various other definitions have also been used over time. In this article we will focus on definitions used by the WHO and provide some examples of what it means to be well to these individuals.
According to the WHO, good health is having no diseases that interfere with your daily life. It includes your freedom to do all the things you want without restrictions. It also includes freedom from disability and death or life threatening conditions. The definition is most inclusive of children, old people and women who may be pregnant or breast-feeding. It is important to include these groups in good health promotion programs to prevent diseases that affect them and their communities.
Another definition is Disability Induced Illness (DIIV). This is a disability that comes about as a result of an illness and is caused by a condition that was acquired at birth or later. Examples are cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease and Down syndrome. It is important to note that this definition does not include any sickness that develops on its own. So a person who has a birth defect may be considered to be suffering from DIIV even though he or she might not have any other illness.
The third definition is Healthy Assumption of the Risk (HAR) defines health as having reasonable knowledge of the consequences of health-related behaviours and the occurrence and effects of disease, quality of life and physical environment. By contrast, the second definition, healthy expectancy, considers the expectancy of remaining fit, active and well. It does not include any knowledge of the impact of existing diseases or their prevention. So to achieve healthy expectancy, healthy Assumptions of the Risk must be considered including knowledge of the effect of existing diseases on fitness, activity level and physical environment.
A fourth definition is Good Health is a state of total well-being that includes absence of sickness, pain, disfigurement, disorientation, mental distress, risk of death and loss of ability to participate in the community. Achieving this state is difficult as many diseases affect the ability to get and stay healthy. Achieving good health also requires adopting healthy behaviour that reduces the risk of getting disease. For instance, it is not advisable for pregnant women to smoke as the smoke accumulates in their blood stream and increases the possibility of contracting high blood pressure, a disease that reduces the ability to maintain good health.
An additional approach that has been taken to define health is measurement of quality of life. Health is said to be good when individuals can enjoy life to its fullest without experiencing any negative impacts or disability ( disability of the body or impaired freedom) due to illness or injury. It is further measured using specific end points such as self-rated health, perceived community health burden and morbidity/morbidity. These end points are based on internationally accepted criteria on health and disability, taking into account current problems and potential future problems.