Health is the ability of a biological system to acquire, convert,
allocate, distribute, and utilize the energy with maximum efficiency.
World Health Organization
World Health Organization (WHO) defined human health in a broader
sense in its 1948 constitution as "a state of complete physical,
mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or
infirmity." This definition has been subject to controversy, in
particular as lacking operational value, the ambiguity in developing
cohesive health strategies, and because of the problem created by use
of the word "complete", which makes it practically impossible to
achieve. Other definitions have been proposed, among which a
recent definition that correlates health and personal satisfaction.
An alternative approach focuses on avoiding definitions, which demand
precise descriptions of the term. Instead, following a three-year
global conversation, convened by Alex Jadad, "health" has been
conceptualized as the ability to adapt and self manage when
individuals communities face physical, mental or social
2.1 Potential issues
3 Mental health
4.4 Role of science
4.5 Role of public health
4.6 Self-care strategies
6 See also
8 External links
The definition of health has evolved over time. In keeping with the
biomedical perspective, early definitions of health focused on the
theme of the body's ability to function; health was seen as a state of
normal function that could be disrupted from time to time by disease.
An example of such a definition of health is: "a state characterized
by anatomic, physiologic, and psychological integrity; ability to
perform personally valued family, work, and community roles; ability
to deal with physical, biological, psychological, and social
stress". Then, in 1948, in a radical departure from previous
World Health Organization
World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a definition
that aimed higher: linking health to well-being, in terms of
"physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence
of disease and infirmity". Although this definition was welcomed
by some as being innovative, it was also criticized as being vague,
excessively broad, and was not construed as measurable. For a long
time, it was set aside as an impractical ideal and most discussions of
health returned to the practicality of the biomedical model.
Just as there was a shift from viewing disease as a state to thinking
of it as a process, the same shift happened in definitions of health.
Again, the WHO played a leading role when it fostered the development
of the health promotion movement in the 1980s. This brought in a new
conception of health, not as a state, but in dynamic terms of
resiliency, in other words, as "a resource for living". 1984 WHO
revised the definition of health defined it as "the extent to which an
individual or group is able to realize aspirations and satisfy needs
and to change or cope with the environment.
Health is a resource for
everyday life, not the objective of living; it is a positive concept,
emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical
capacities". Thus, health referred to the ability to maintain
homeostasis and recover from insults. Mental, intellectual, emotional,
and social health referred to a person's ability to handle stress, to
acquire skills, to maintain relationships, all of which form resources
for resiliency and independent living.
Since the late 1970s, the federal Healthy People Initiative has been a
visible component of the United States’ approach to improving
population health. In each decade, a new version of Healthy People
is issued, featuring updated goals and identifying topic areas and
quantifiable objectives for health improvement during the succeeding
ten years, with assessment at that point of progress or lack thereof.
Progress has been limited to many objectives, leading to concerns
about the effectiveness of Healthy People in shaping outcomes in the
context of a decentralized and uncoordinated US health system. Healthy
People 2020 gives more prominence to health promotion and preventive
approaches and adds a substantive focus on the importance of
addressing social determinants of health. A new expanded digital
interface facilitates use and dissemination rather than bulky printed
books as produced in the past. The impact of these changes to Healthy
People will be determined in the coming years.
Systematic activities to prevent or cure health problems and promote
good health in humans are undertaken by health care providers.
Applications with regard to animal health are covered by the
veterinary sciences. The term "healthy" is also widely used in the
context of many types of non-living organizations and their impacts
for the benefit of humans, such as in the sense of healthy
communities, healthy cities or healthy environments. In addition to
health care interventions and a person's surroundings, a number of
other factors are known to influence the health status of individuals,
including their background, lifestyle, and economic, social
conditions, and spirituality; these are referred to as "determinants
of health." Studies have shown that high levels of stress can affect
In the first decade of the 21th century, the conceptualization of
health as an ability opened the door for self-assessments to become
the main indicators to judge the performance of efforts aimed at
improving human health. It also created the opportunity for every
person to feel healthy, even in the presence of multiple chronic
diseases, or a terminal condition, and for the re-examination of
determinants of health, away from the traditional approach that
focuses on the reduction of the prevalence of diseases.
Social determinants of health
Social determinants of health and Risk factor
Generally, the context in which an individual lives is of great
importance for both his health status and quality of their life.
It is increasingly recognized that health is maintained and improved
not only through the advancement and application of health science,
but also through the efforts and intelligent lifestyle choices of the
individual and society. According to the
the main determinants of health include the social and economic
environment, the physical environment, and the person's individual
characteristics and behaviors.
More specifically, key factors that have been found to influence
whether people are healthy or unhealthy include the
Income and social status
Social support networks
Education and literacy
Personal health practices and coping skills
Healthy child development
Biology and genetics
Health care services
Donald Henderson as part of the CDC's smallpox eradication team in
An increasing number of studies and reports from different
organizations and contexts examine the linkages between health and
different factors, including lifestyles, environments, health care
organization, and health policy, one specific health policy brought
into many countries in recent years was the introduction of the sugar
tax. Beverage taxes came into light with increasing concerns about
obesity, particularly among youth. Sugar-sweetened beverages have
become a target of anti-obesity initiatives with increasing evidence
of their link to obesity.– such as the 1974
Lalonde report from
Alameda County Study in California; and the series
Health Reports of the
Health Organization, which
focuses on global health issues including access to health care and
improving public health outcomes, especially in developing
The concept of the "health field," as distinct from medical care,
emerged from the
Lalonde report from Canada. The report identified
three interdependent fields as key determinants of an individual's
health. These are:
Lifestyle: the aggregation of personal decisions (i.e., over which the
individual has control) that can be said to contribute to, or cause,
illness or death;
Environmental: all matters related to health external to the human
body and over which the individual has little or no control;
Biomedical: all aspects of health, physical and mental, developed
within the human body as influenced by genetic make-up.
The maintenance and promotion of health is achieved through different
combination of physical, mental, and social well-being, together
sometimes referred to as the "health triangle." The WHO's 1986
Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion further stated that health is not
just a state, but also "a resource for everyday life, not the
objective of living.
Health is a positive concept emphasizing social
and personal resources, as well as physical capacities."
Focusing more on lifestyle issues and their relationships with
functional health, data from the
Alameda County Study suggested that
people can improve their health via exercise, enough sleep,
maintaining a healthy body weight, limiting alcohol use, and avoiding
Health and illness can co-exist, as even people with
multiple chronic diseases or terminal illnesses can consider
The environment is often cited as an important factor influencing the
health status of individuals. This includes characteristics of the
natural environment, the built environment, and the social
environment. Factors such as clean water and air, adequate housing,
and safe communities and roads all have been found to contribute to
good health, especially to the health of infants and children.
Some studies have shown that a lack of neighborhood recreational
spaces including natural environment leads to lower levels of personal
satisfaction and higher levels of obesity, linked to lower overall
health and well being. This suggests that the positive health
benefits of natural space in urban neighborhoods should be taken into
account in public policy and land use.
Genetics, or inherited traits from parents, also play a role in
determining the health status of individuals and populations. This can
encompass both the predisposition to certain diseases and health
conditions, as well as the habits and behaviors individuals develop
through the lifestyle of their families. For example, genetics may
play a role in the manner in which people cope with stress, either
mental, emotional or physical. For example, obesity is a significant
problem in the
United States that contributes to bad mental health and
causes stress in the lives of great numbers of people. (One
difficulty is the issue raised by the debate over the relative
strengths of genetics and other factors; interactions between genetics
and environment may be of particular importance.)
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made clearer with a different or consistent style of citation and
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A number of types of health issues are common around the globe.
Disease is one of the most common. According to GlobalIssues.org,
approximately 36 million people die each year from
non-communicable (not contagious) disease including cardiovascular
disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease (Shah, 2014).
Among communicable diseases, both viral and bacterial, AIDS/HIV,
tuberculosis, and malaria are the most common, causing millions of
deaths every year (Shah, 2014).
Another health issue that causes death or contributes to other health
problems is malnutrition, especially among children. One of the groups
malnutrition affects most is young children. Approximately
7.5 million children under the age of 5 die from malnutrition,
usually brought on by not having the money to find or make food (Shah,
Bodily injuries are also a common health issue worldwide. These
injuries, including broken bones, fractures, and burns can reduce a
person's quality of life or can cause fatalities including infections
that resulted from the injury or the severity injury in general
Lifestyle choices are contributing factors to poor health in many
cases. These include smoking cigarettes, and can also include a poor
diet, whether it is overeating or an overly constrictive diet.
Inactivity can also contribute to health issues and also a lack of
sleep, excessive alcohol consumption, and neglect of oral hygiene
(Moffett2013).There are also genetic disorders that are inherited by
the person and can vary in how much they affect the person and when
they surface (Moffett, 2013).
Though the majority of these health issues are preventable, a major
contributor to global ill health is the fact that approximately 1
billion people lack access to health care systems (Shah, 2014).
Arguably, the most common and harmful health issue is that a great
many people do not have access to quality remedies.
Main article: Mental health
World Health Organization
World Health Organization describes mental health as "a state of
well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities,
can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and
fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her
Health is not just the absence of mental
Mental illness is described as 'the spectrum of cognitive, emotional,
and behavioral conditions that interfere with social and emotional
well-being and the lives and productivity of people. Having a mental
illness can seriously impair, temporarily or permanently, the mental
functioning of a person. Other terms include: 'mental health problem',
'illness', 'disorder', 'dysfunction'.
Roughly a quarter of all adults 18 and over in the US are considered
diagnosable with mental illness. Mental illnesses are the leading
cause of disability in the US and Canada. Examples include,
schizophrenia, ADHD, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder,
anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism.
Many teens suffer from mental health issues in response to the
pressures of society and social problems they encounter. Some of the
key mental health issues seen in teens are: depression, eating
disorders, and drug abuse. There are many ways to prevent these health
issues from occurring such as communicating well with a teen suffering
from mental health issues.
Mental health can be treated and be
attentive to teens' behavior.
Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
Family history of mental health problems
Achieving and maintaining health is an ongoing process, shaped by both
the evolution of health care knowledge and practices as well as
personal strategies and organized interventions for staying healthy.
Healthy diet and Human nutrition
Percentage of overweight or obese population in 2010, Data source:
OECD's iLibrary, http://stats.oecd.org
Percentage of obese population in 2010, Data source: OECD's iLibrary,
An important way to maintain your personal health is to have a healthy
diet. A healthy diet includes a variety of plant-based and
animal-based foods that provide nutrients to your body. Such nutrients
give you energy and keep your body running.
Nutrients help build and
strengthen bones, muscles, and tendons and also regulate body
processes (i.e. blood pressure). The food guide pyramid is a
pyramid-shaped guide of healthy foods divided into sections. Each
section shows the recommended intake for each food group (i.e.
Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates, and Sugars). Making healthy food choices
is important because it can lower your risk of heart disease,
developing some types of cancer, and it will contribute to maintaining
a healthy weight.
Mediterranean diet is commonly associated with health-promoting
effects due to the fact that it contains some bioactive compounds like
phenolic compounds, isoprenoids and alkaloids.
Main article: Physical exercise
Physical exercise enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall
health and wellness. It strengthens muscles and improves the
cardiovascular system. According to the National Institute of Health
(NIH) there are four types of exercise; Endurance, Strength,
Flexibility, and Balance.
Endurance exercises are those that will
elevate your heart rate including; walking, jogging, running, hiking
Sleep is an essential component to maintaining health. In children,
sleep is also vital for growth and development. Ongoing sleep
deprivation has been linked to an increased risk for some chronic
health problems. In addition, sleep deprivation has been shown to
correlate with both increased susceptibility to illness and slower
recovery times from illness. In one study, people with chronic
insufficient sleep, set as six hours of sleep a night or less, were
found to be four times more likely to catch a cold compared to those
who reported sleeping for seven hours or more a night. Due to the
role of sleep in regulating metabolism, insufficient sleep may also
play a role in weight gain or, conversely, in impeding weight
loss. Additionally, in 2007, the International Agency for Research
on Cancer, which is the cancer research agency for the
Organization, declared that "shiftwork that involves circadian
disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans," speaking to the
dangers of long-term nighttime work due to its intrusion on sleep.
In 2015, the National
Sleep Foundation released updated
recommendations for sleep duration requirements based on age and
concluded that "Individuals who habitually sleep outside the normal
range may be exhibiting signs or symptoms of serious health problems
or, if done volitionally, may be compromising their health and
Age and condition
Newborns (0–3 months)
14 to 17 hours
Infants (4–11 months)
12 to 15 hours
Toddlers (1–2 years)
11 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3–5 years)
10 to 13 hours
School-age children (6–13 years)
9 to 11 hours
Teenagers (14–17 years)
8 to 10 hours
Adults (18–64 years)
7 to 9 hours
Older Adults (65 years and over)
7 to 8 hours
Role of science
Health science and
The Dutch Public
Health Service provides medical care for the natives
of the Dutch East Indies, May 1946
Health science is the branch of science focused on health. There are
two main approaches to health science: the study and research of the
body and health-related issues to understand how humans (and animals)
function, and the application of that knowledge to improve health and
to prevent and cure diseases and other physical and mental
impairments. The science builds on many sub-fields, including biology,
biochemistry, physics, epidemiology, pharmacology, medical sociology.
Applied health sciences endeavor to better understand and improve
human health through applications in areas such as health education,
biomedical engineering, biotechnology and public health.
Organized interventions to improve health based on the principles and
procedures developed through the health sciences are provided by
practitioners trained in medicine, nursing, nutrition, pharmacy,
social work, psychology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and
other health care professions. Clinical practitioners focus mainly on
the health of individuals, while public health practitioners consider
the overall health of communities and populations. Workplace wellness
programs are increasingly adopted by companies for their value in
improving the health and well-being of their employees, as are school
health services in order to improve the health and well-being of
Role of public health
Main article: Public health
See also: Global health
Postage stamp, New Zealand, 1933.
Public health has been
promoted – and depicted – in a wide variety of ways.
Public health has been described as "the science and art of preventing
disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized
efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and
private, communities and individuals." It is concerned with
threats to the overall health of a community based on population
health analysis. The population in question can be as small as a
handful of people or as large as all the inhabitants of several
continents (for instance, in the case of a pandemic). Public health
has many sub-fields, but typically includes the interdisciplinary
categories of epidemiology, biostatistics and health services.
Environmental health, community health, behavioral health, and
occupational health are also important areas of public health.
The focus of public health interventions is to prevent and manage
diseases, injuries and other health conditions through surveillance of
cases and the promotion of healthy behavior, communities, and (in
aspects relevant to human health) environments. Its aim is to prevent
health problems from happening or re-occurring by implementing
educational programs, developing policies, administering services and
conducting research. In many cases, treating a disease or
controlling a pathogen can be vital to preventing it in others, such
as during an outbreak.
Vaccination programs and distribution of
condoms to prevent the spread of communicable diseases are examples of
common preventive public health measures, as are educational campaigns
to promote vaccination and the use of condoms (including overcoming
resistance to such).
Public health also takes various actions to limit the health
disparities between different areas of the country and, in some cases,
the continent or world. One issue is the access of individuals and
communities to health care in terms of financial, geographical or
socio-cultural constraints to accessing and using services.
Applications of the public health system include the areas of maternal
and child health, health services administration, emergency response,
and prevention and control of infectious and chronic diseases.
The great positive impact of public health programs is widely
acknowledged. Due in part to the policies and actions developed
through public health, the 20th century registered a decrease in the
mortality rates for infants and children and a continual increase in
life expectancy in most parts of the world. For example, it is
estimated that life expectancy has increased for Americans by thirty
years since 1900, and worldwide by six years since 1990.
Main article: Self care
See also: Chronic care management, Social relation, and Stress
A lady washing her hands c. 1655
Personal health depends partially on the active, passive, and assisted
cues people observe and adopt about their own health. These include
personal actions for preventing or minimizing the effects of a
disease, usually a chronic condition, through integrative care. They
also include personal hygiene practices to prevent infection and
illness, such as bathing and washing hands with soap; brushing and
flossing teeth; storing, preparing and handling food safely; and many
others. The information gleaned from personal observations of daily
living – such as about sleep patterns, exercise behavior,
nutritional intake and environmental features – may be used to
inform personal decisions and actions (e.g., "I feel tired in the
morning so I am going to try sleeping on a different pillow"), as well
as clinical decisions and treatment plans (e.g., a patient who notices
his or her shoes are tighter than usual may be having exacerbation of
left-sided heart failure, and may require diuretic medication to
reduce fluid overload).
Personal health also depends partially on the social structure of a
person's life. The maintenance of strong social relationships,
volunteering, and other social activities have been linked to positive
mental health and also increased longevity. One American study among
seniors over age 70, found that frequent volunteering was associated
with reduced risk of dying compared with older persons who did not
volunteer, regardless of physical health status. Another study
from Singapore reported that volunteering retirees had significantly
better cognitive performance scores, fewer depressive symptoms, and
better mental well-being and life satisfaction than non-volunteering
Prolonged psychological stress may negatively impact health, and has
been cited as a factor in cognitive impairment with aging, depressive
illness, and expression of disease.
Stress management is the
application of methods to either reduce stress or increase tolerance
to stress. Relaxation techniques are physical methods used to relieve
stress. Psychological methods include cognitive therapy, meditation,
and positive thinking, which work by reducing response to stress.
Improving relevant skills, such as problem solving and time management
skills, reduces uncertainty and builds confidence, which also reduces
the reaction to stress-causing situations where those skills are
Main article: Occupational safety and health
In addition to safety risks, many jobs also present risks of disease,
illness and other long-term health problems. Among the most common
occupational diseases are various forms of pneumoconiosis, including
silicosis and coal worker's pneumoconiosis (black lung disease).
Asthma is another respiratory illness that many workers are vulnerable
to. Workers may also be vulnerable to skin diseases, including eczema,
dermatitis, urticaria, sunburn, and skin cancer. Other
occupational diseases of concern include carpal tunnel syndrome and
As the number of service sector jobs has risen in developed countries,
more and more jobs have become sedentary, presenting a different array
of health problems than those associated with manufacturing and the
primary sector. Contemporary problems, such as the growing rate of
obesity and issues relating to stress and overwork in many countries,
have further complicated the interaction between work and health.
Many governments view occupational health as a social challenge and
have formed public organizations to ensure the health and safety of
workers. Examples of these include the British
Health and Safety
Executive and in the United States, the National Institute for
Safety and Health, which conducts research on
occupational health and safety, and the Occupational
Safety and Health
Administration, which handles regulation and policy relating to worker
safety and health.
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