The Simplicity of Health
How a person views themselves, as individuals and as a part of society, affects the way he/she defines health. Many people look at health as a continuum, with wellness at the highest level of function and illness at the lowest end of the spectrum. Everyone is somewhere on the continuum of health and illness. People strive to maintain health at the highest end of the spectrum. Whenever a person's health status changes, their position on the health-illness scale changes too.
The focus and definition of health has changed throughout the history of mankind. Each new generation has different concerns than the previous generation. Technological advances increase the rate of survival in the event of a health crisis. The current attitude depends largely on the prevailing knowledge base and beliefs system of the time. For years, many thought health was relational to the how good one lived his/her life.
Poor health was seen as punishment for behaviors. Likewise, good health is a reward for being an upstanding person. Today, it has been seen that health, good or bad, is a result of many factors.
Factors that may influence health are:
Demographics (age and sex)
Lifestyle and environment (diet, exercise, exposure)
Religious beliefs and practices
Previous health care experiences
"The difficulty of defining health has led to most attention being given to defining disease instead"(Lewis, 2001). Although no single definition of health exists, a common one describes health as a disease-free state. This is a problematic definition because it limits one to being either healthy or ill. Many people with diabetes live quite normal and otherwise healthy lives. Others, such as myself, live normally without the benefit of two kidneys. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health in the preamble of its constitution.
THE STATES Parties to this Constitution declare, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, that the following principles are basic to the happiness, harmonious relations and security of all peoples:
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political beliefs, economic or social condition.
The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and States (WHO, 2001).
There are many contributing factors to poor health in today's society. Many factors can be changed to minimize those that can't be changed, such as age and sex. Although people are likely to demonstrate health-promoting behavior, many still have habits that are detrimental to a person's continued good health. Cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse, sedentary life, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and increased stressors in daily activities all cause illness unless improved or discontinued. These poor health practices must change for continue enjoyment of good health.
In more recent years the trend has been health promotion, taking the focus off of illness. Health promotion is activities and efforts that are directed towards developing available resources to maintain or improve present health status. Nurse should be proactive and seek opportunities to teach others how to develop a program that promotes well- being. Primarily, heath promotion reverses the emphasis from curing a disease to prevention of illness. As the old adage states, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"(Daly, M., Katzel, L. 2002). Prevention must be tailored to the individual patient based on these factors:
past medical history
lifestyle (diet, exercise)
demographic characteristics (gender, race)
age (young-old vs. old-old)
risk factors for specific illnesses
social situation (social support, finances)
current medical history
(Daly, M., Katzel, L. 2002)
My personal definition of health is similar to the WHO's definition. I define health as the ability to perform activities of daily living without difficulty or assistance. My goal is to be healthy enough to enjoy all aspects of my life. I obtain this goal I should:
improve my nutritional intake to meet demands and to manage weight appropriate for height and body structure. I need to follow a nutritional plan that includes:
o Fat intake should be < 30% total calories
o Dietary cholesterol < 300 mg per day
o Saturated fat consumption < 10% of calories
o Sodium intake should be l.l to 3.3 g/day,in contrast
to average daily intake of 4-6 g/day
(Daly, M., Katzel, L. 2002)
decrease stressors in my life by eliminating factors that cause stress.
continue daily activities with family to help reduce stress and help maintain with at optimal weight for body structure.
develop and exercise plan that increases energy. And help with weight maintenance.
(Daly, M., Katzel, L. 2002)
In conclusion, the definition of health changes with each generation adapting it to meet the challenges and beliefs at the time. Because the world is constantly changing and people have to adapt to survive, so must the criteria to describe health and illness. Many view health as a level of wellness with an absence of illness. Others view health as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity"(WHO, 2001). Health, like beauty, is truly in the eye of the beholder.
Lewis, S. (2001), The changing face of disease: Implications for society.Retrieved April 6,
2003 from http://www.chester.ac.uk/~sjlewis/DM/Poster2.htm.
WHO, May 2001, Policy Statements, Retrieved April 6, 2003, from
Daly, M., Katzel, L. 2002, Health promotion and disease prevention in the elderly, Retrieved
April 7, 2003