Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is ‘a state of full mental, physical and social well being and not just the absence of illness and infirmity.’ Different definitions have been applied to the concept over the years. However, there is one that stands above all the rest as a universal definition. It states that health is the sum of healthy relationships, and this implies that we are what we do (not what we are).
What most people see in their day to day lives is how they are coping with issues such as stress, money, work, family, romance and death. They do not realize that in order to survive they need to take care of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. These three aspects of a person’s life course can be managed effectively and a healthy balance maintained through education, motivation and a proper diet. In addition to these three areas, public health educators, family and community leaders also play an important role in achieving healthy goals in these three areas.
Health promotion starts with a complete physical and mental make up. Getting to know yourself completely is the first step in making sure you have good nutrition. A physically fit body helps in coping with diseases and maintaining a healthy social environment. Emotional health is equally important. The emotional support given to a person strengthens his coping abilities when confronted with health problems.
Since social determinants contribute to a person’s health status, an effective health strategy should take these into consideration. Public policies can set standards for healthy behaviours. These can include exercise and diet. Educational programs can teach children good health behaviours and family strategies to maintain health. Community leaders can set examples of healthy behaviours and provide the necessary support.
Individual behaviour can be influenced by public policies. These can include encouraging healthy behaviours or discouraging unhealthy ones. However, individual behaviour, while influenced by public health services, is not the sole determinant of an individual’s health needs.
Societal stigma and the impact of individual behaviour are both important to consider when considering the definition of healthy. Societal stigma refers to discrimination experienced at the workplace and at school. Individual behaviour refers to the ways in which an individual relates to his physical environment, including his diet, sleep and exercise patterns and social interaction with other people. These three elements define the quality of the day to day life of an individual. When all three elements of a person’s life are poor, he is said to be unhealthy.