Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition of “nutritional well being and not just the absence of illness and infirmity.” A wide variety of definitions have also been used over the years. For the most part these have been broadly accepted as indicating an awareness of basic needs, the capacity to meet these needs, and the ability to participate in community activities designed to promote health. However, the truth is that health is much more than a faint buzz of the general feeling.
There are actually four important facets to consider when viewing health as a concept and practice. These are physical well-being, mental health, emotional health, and social support. These facets can be viewed individually or in combination as indicated by the different standards set forth by organizations such as the WHO. In addition to these important facets of health, the concept of public health is intimately connected to all of them.
First, as noted, physical well being is the basis of good health promotion and maintenance. There are many ways to go about this. Australia has a tradition of taking good care of its residents, through its National Health Program as well as various other programs. Some of these initiatives include promoting physical education and fitness, promoting the involvement of children and mothers in child rearing, promoting the avoidance of infectious diseases, and more. The goal is to promote good health and limit the risks associated with it. As noted, part of this includes the control and prevention of disease through education and better medical management of existing conditions and through the implementation of strategies related to prevention and control.
Mental health, on the other hand, is associated with overall mental wellbeing. It is also closely tied to physical health through the definition outlined above. The two concepts are usually seen together in the assessment of psychological health. While physical examinations are conducted to diagnose and establish illness or disease, psychological tests are used to determine whether or not the individual meets the criteria for being mentally healthy.
Of course, the definition of good health and the factors that bring it about are themselves subjective and vary from one person to another. While there is some agreement on what constitute the desirable definition of healthy, the factors that make up this definition are often controversial. Some people consider the lack of smoking, the absence of dangerous substance use, and the avoidance of unhealthy food as necessary elements of a healthy lifestyle. Others are not so concerned with these factors and consider being healthy to be having a balanced diet and regular exercise, as well as avoiding too much television and the internet. Still others may consider these elements to be unnecessary and in need of little more than a bit of encouragement.
The commonest element shared by the various definitions of good health is the avoidance of diseases. Illness and death rates have risen dramatically over recent decades, and with this increase the importance of education and information campaigns to prevent disease has also increased. Without a common sense definition of what constitutes good health, the campaigns that are subsequently developed to fight disease cannot adequately reach their target population. Prevention is better than cure.