Good Health and Wellness
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is ‘a state of total health of the body and mind’. A number of definitions have also been applied to health, varying over the years. The definition was created to allow for a universal uniform approach to diagnose and treat a wide array of diseases and disorders. It thus provides a common platform upon which practitioners and researchers can collaborate and identify similarities and differences in practice. This also makes health a more accessible concept for many people, as it no longer requires lengthy and complex medical terminology or assumptions.
Health has often been seen as synonymous with well-being, with those who are mentally healthy considered to be ‘healthy’, while those who are physically unhealthy (as judged by mainstream societal views) have often been viewed as having ‘bad health’. However, research into the health of the mind has identified many differences between how people perceive their own health, especially in light of the current information and research about preventive health strategies. For example, a definition of good health would be one in which people live longer, healthier lives that are free from illness or other physical limitations. On the other hand, a definition of health as it relates to emotional well-being would be one that is culturally specific and focuses on emotional well-being – which may include but is not limited to emotional health, such as a sense of well-being regarding one’s relationships and interactions with other people.
A good definition of mental health would then be one that takes into consideration both physical health and mental health, providing a balance and a continuum of health. While there are many similarities between good health and emotional well-being, they are two different concepts, and the gaps between them are vast. People who consider themselves to be in good physical health may suffer from a minor injury that leaves them limited in mobility, or have developed some form of cancer. However, they will still have good health habits and practices, such as a regular exercise routine, good nutrition, and a healthy diet. They will also have positive social relationships, and not be experiencing any major medical problems. Similarly, those who identify themselves as being in good mental health will be living with no major physical limitations, have clean water to drink, and may have a positive social network with others who also have similar values and attitudes towards life.
The idea of health as it relates to mental well-being can also be considered to be a subset of the bigger picture called healthiness. What we typically mean by healthiness is an approach towards life that includes having a balanced diet and active social interactions with others. It is also important to practice healthy mental habits, such as meditation and progressive muscle relaxation techniques, and to engage in activities that do not rely heavily on technology. These mental aspects are just as important to physical well-being as they are to physical health, and the fact that these mental health practices are often neglected by the media and popular culture (largely because they do not fit the dominant culture’s definitions of what constitutes healthy) speaks to the importance of this type of mental health.
The health care system has traditionally been one group that has benefited from a lot of the focus on wellness. For example, there are national programs such as Medicare and Medicaid that provide for a large number of the costs of health systems. However, these programs have tended to be focused on senior citizens or the disabled, and this focus has sometimes been challenged by the interests of insurance companies. More recently, there has been some movement toward creating “coordinated care,” which is the idea that certain groups such as medical doctors, hospitals, and other health system providers work with each other on a regular basis to ensure the continuity of care across the system.
To improve the quality of the health system, it is important to have a strategic plan for coordinating services. This includes making sure that the different components of the care system – from the physicians and hospitals, to the various insurance companies – work in concert to provide patients with the best possible health care. This can include use of coordinated payment programs to promote better patient care, and use of quality metrics to track improvements. In addition, a very important aspect of good health is physical well-being. This may include having a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.