Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition of total physical, emotional and social well being and not just the absence of sickness and disease. Over time various definitions have also been used for distinct purposes. However, the concept remains the same. It refers to the well being of an individual and his or her dependents. It is also referred to as being in good health, within the meaning of the current terminology.
One definition is that health is the “comfortable condition of life” and the leading indicator of the quality of life. The second definition is that health is having good relationships, having trust in others, having social protection from physical and mental hazards, having one’s health compromised and not getting adequate resources when needed. The third definition maintains that health is the ability to handle current health conditions and future conditions that are likely to arise. The fourth definition emphasizes the fact that health is a thinking and acting ability. One who has healthy relationships and the ability to think critically can take part in managing health systems effectively and in promoting healthy living. Thus, everyone can be said to be in health, albeit in a diverse and complex set of terms.
This view points out that overall health refers to the condition of people as observed in the totality of their life, i.e., as they exist in the social, cultural, economical, physical, emotional, intellectual, and behavioral context. Public health, on the other hand, focuses on issues connected to a community and its inhabitants. It refers to the management of these communities through health care, prevention, research, education and promotion. Both public health care are interrelated and dependent on each other, as the needs of the two categories depend on the needs of the other.
For an overview of the concepts mentioned above, the first aspect that needs to be introduced is that of population health or overall health. This refers to health throughout the entire community, which is made up of the individual, family, households as well as the wider groupings in society. This aspect of population health addresses the health care needs of those people living in the community, as well as those who are connected with the wider social network. The second aspect is disability. This refers to problems and risks specific to a person’s health condition.
The third aspect is the medical care received and offered by health services. This is concerned with determinants, which are basically characteristics of an individual or a community. They include age, gender, ethnicity, social class, health status, and any history of mental illness. Some other determinants include health status and habits (i.e., tobacco use), socioeconomic position, occupation, physical exercise, recreational activities, travel habits, religion and educational background.
The four aspects that are crucial in formulating a healthy and progressive society comprise determinants, factors that affect them, and influences. Determinants refers to universal attributes such as race, gender, education, and health status that affect the general health of an individual. Determinants are often grouped into categories according to their effects on the different aspects of the society. The last determinant is influences. These affect the individuals themselves, as well as the extent to which they are influenced by the conditions they live in. The presence and absence of these four important determinants form the basis for the application of the definition of healthy and progressive.