Definition of Health


Many people think of health as just the absence of physical disease. Health as a quality of life is a result of a person’s functioning within his biological, physical and social environment. Everybody desires and deserves good health. It is the fundamental right of every individual however it is rather difficult to reach the target of good health without personal efforts. Although a person is necessarily concerned with his own health, health also involves the family members as well as the large community to which such a person belongs.

General health involves not only the absence of disease or infirmity, and/or the achievement of a certain body size, but it also implies realization of an adequate physical fitness. It is rather a reflection of individual consciousness on the manipulation of existing remediable life variables for his personal benefits and healthier living.

 What then is Health?

Health is a common theme in most cultures. In fact, all communities have their concept of health as part of their culture. Among definitions still used, probably the oldest is that “health is an absence of disease” in some cultures, health and harmony are considered equivalent, harmony being defined as being at peace with the self, the community, god and cosmos. The current definition of heath is elusive and there is no single yardstick for measuring health. Health is often taken for granted, and its value is not fully understood until it is lost.

THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO): Defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Health has been so critical/severely criticized on the grounds that there is no such thing as “complete state of physical, mental and social well-being”. Authorities in the field of health however agree that health has physical, mental and social dimensions. “Completeness of health” they contend is a utopia which everyone aspires for but too broad. Some argue that health cannot be defined as a “state at all, but must be seen as a process of continuous adjustment to the changing demands of living and of the changing meanings we give to life”. It is a dynamic concept. It helps people live well, work well and enjoy themselves.

Therefore for a person to be enjoying good health, he must have a balance or equilibrium among the three dimensions.

In recent years, a new philosophy of health has been acquired thus;

·       Health is a fundamental human right.

·    Health is the essence of productive life and not the result of ever increasing expenditure on materials care.

·       Health is inter-sectoral.

·       Health is an integral part of development

·       Health is an central to the concept of quality of life

·       Health involves individuals, state and international responsibility.

·       Health and its maintenance is a major social investment.

·       Health is world-wide social goal.

Dimension of Health

Health is multi-dimensional. The WHO envisages three specific dimensions – the physical, mental and the social. Many more may be cited, viz, spiritual, emotional, vocational and political dimensions. Although these dimensions function and interact with one another, each as its own nature.

A.    Physical Dimension

The physical dimension of health is probably the easiest to understand. The state of physical health implies the notion of perfect functioning’ of the body. It views health biologically as a state in which every cell and every organ is functioning at optimum capacity and in a perfect harmony with rest of the body. However the term optimum is not definable. The signs of physical health in an individual are a good complexion, a clear skin, bright eyes, lustrous hair with a body well clothed with firm flesh, not too fat, a sweet breath, a good appetite, sound sleep, coordinated bodily movements. Physical health also entails a good condition of all the organs including size and functions. At the community level, the state of health may be assessed by such indicators as death rate, infant ad material mortality and life expectancy.

B.    Mental Dimension

Mental health is not mere absence of mental illness. Good mental health is the ability to respond to the many varied experiences of life with flexibility and a sense of purpose. Mental health has been defined as a ‘state of balance between the individual and surrounding world, a state of harmony between oneself and others, a co-existence between the realities of the self, that of other people and that of the environment. Researchers have however discovered psychological factors can induce conditions such as essential hypertension, peptic ulcer and bronchial asthma. There are no precise tools to assess the state of mental health unlike physical health, but some of the following characteristics could be used;

·          A mentally healthy person is free from internal conflict , he is not at war with himself

·          He is well adjusted that is, he is able to get along well with others

·          He accepts criticisms and is not easily upset

·          He searches for identity

·          He has a strong sense of self-esteem

·          He knows himself, his needs, problems and goals (this is known as self-actualization)

·          He has good self-control, balance rationally and emotionality

·          He faces problems and tries to solve them intelligently that  copes with stress and anxiety

Note: one of the key to good health is a positive mental health.

 C.    Social Dimension

Social well-being implies harmony and integration within the individual, between each individual and members of the society and between individual and the world in which they live. It is defined as the quality of an individual’s interpersonal ties and the extent of involvement with the community.

The social dimension of health includes the levels of social skills one possess, social functioning and the ability to see oneself as a member of a larger society. Social health takes into account that every individual is part of a family and of wider community and focuses on social and economic conditions and well-being of the whole person’ in the context of his social network. Social health takes into account that every individual is part of a family and of wider community and focuses on social and economic conditions and well-being of the whole person in the context of his social network. Social health is rooted in “positive materials environment” (focusing on financial and residential matters) and positive human environment which is concerned with the social network of the individual.

Thanks for reading. 

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