Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is “the state of full physical, emotional and social well being and not just the absence of illness and infirmity.” A variety of other definitions have also been used over time with varying degrees of agreement. What is health to you may be different than what is acceptable or embraced by another group of people. One group’s definition of health may be what you think is the definition of health to another.
The determinants of health are the influences that cause an individual to develop a disorder or poor health condition. These determinants can take the form of genes, environment, experience, or even current medications. There are times when these influences are present in the environment but may not always be present in every individual. For instance, genetic disorders such as sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia are present in some groups of people but not in others. This demonstrates that no single definition of health can describe the totality of the determinants of health. Because of this, there are a variety of different types of health services available to address the needs of individuals and families that may face a variety of health problems.
A number of public health services address these determinants of health through specific programs or initiatives. One such initiative is the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRIFTA). The objective of this trial is to reduce the prevalence of cardiovascular and coronary disease (CVD) through various public health measures and the use of individual behavior modification techniques. For instance, the intervention strategy implemented for the MRIFTA trial provided information and counseling about both nutrition and physical activity for all individuals regardless of their race, gender, or age.
The philosophy of the MRIFTA trial was that it was important for all individuals, regardless of race or age, to have access to quality health care so that they could lead healthy and productive lives. This includes access to a well-balanced diet, exercise, and a lifestyle that promotes well-being. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “measurable and stable changes in the quality of life have been seen in all areas of the global community, with special focus on the global economic, social and health status-related issues.” For this reason, it is apparent that defining health is a concept that encompasses many different factors, both internal and external to an individual or his or her family.
In addition to the macrobiotic philosophy of health as a basic value, it is also important to note that wellness encompasses the mental health of an individual as well. The concept of defining health has been around since antiquity, when Hippocrates described the human condition as being comprised of three components: the “firmness of the body, the spirit of the soul, and the temperate administration of this nature.” In recent years, modern approaches to the idea of wellness have sought to add additional components to the definition in order to provide for the needs of individuals who suffer from various illnesses and conditions. In doing so, it has become necessary to also incorporate the definition of “wellness” into the discussion.
When considering what makes up a good definition of health, several different factors come into play. However, some of the leading contributors to the definition’s success have been the efforts of organizations such as WHO, which have defined five key determinants of health that include: physical activity, clean environments, access to health services, social factor, and personal beliefs and attitudes. By taking these factors into consideration, researchers and practitioners alike have been able to develop and promote programs that focus on the prevention of disease, improve the health of individuals at risk for disease, and promote general health. Among the many examples of programs and initiatives that promote wellness and the prevention of disease include the National Health Services Plan (NHS Plan), the Health and Social Planning Initiative (HSPI), and the Universal Health Care Strategy (UHCSS).