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What is Health?

written by Head Health Nutter January 22, 2008

The Canadian Health Network, part of the Public Health Agency of Canada, uses the World Health Organization’s (WHO) widely used and generally accepted definition of health:

“a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

 But check this out, the Canadian Health Network goes on to clarify what this definition really means, that health is:

Multidimensional : it is related to physical, mental and social well-being.

Multi-determined : it is affected by many factors, including:

  • spiritual beliefs and practices
  • social support
  • relationships
  • peace
  • justice
  • the economy
  • income
  • the environment
  • policies
  • citizen participation in decision making.

Subjective : each person’s experiences of health can differ widely, even when the “dimensions” appear to be similar.Dynamic : it shifts freely and frequently.

This definition has been criticized for its lack of boundaries – I guess it’d be difficult to know where to start treatment when there so many possibilities (controllable and uncontrollable).

However, the old definition of health was real loosey-goosey with: “an absence of illness”. This makes total sense when you consider the current state of healthcare – the healthcare system was set up way-back when this definition was accepted.

What do you think would happen if Canada’s healthcare system began changing its policies and practices to include this new definition of health?

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3 comments

Brian Anderson January 24, 2008 at 11:48 am

Well, obviously, many more of us would be living healthier, more balanced lives. There’d be a lot less depression, less dependence on Big Pharma, more connected and inter-dependent communities, higher participation in civic life, and overall better physical fitness. Oh yea, one more thing …. people would be happier, or at least enjoy more longer periods of feeling contented.

‘Inter-dependent’ is the key word here. By our very nature, humankind is inter-dependent. So too is our health; there are many different aspects to it and all must be in balance for us to be living a balanced life.

The Canadian Health Network is simply calling attention – announcing that is so. How have they arrived at this conclusion? Well, the baby boomers are a huge demographic hunk of the population and their numbers allow for lots of studies. But we already know that everything is inter-related, especially the single mom who can’t afford medicine for her child.

Canada’s health care system is antiquated, its policies rooted in a different era – the 50’s and the 60’s when there was great relief that many formally fatal diseases were tamed. The economic and population distribution was very different as well. Now, 85% of Canadians live in cities where many of the factors outlined above are in constant play.

We, as a country, city, and a community, need to move to a more balanced outlook on what health means. The first step is awareness, the second? Communication amongst each other. Third, participation; speaking out and petitioning for change.

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Stephanie Miller January 25, 2008 at 8:13 pm

Wow, what an eloquent answer, Brian, thank you.

So, petition for more tax dollars spent in health education AND take an active role in self-education, practicing what we preach, and spreading the word to others also interested in achieving the above definition of health.

That’s all very doable. Count me in. 😉

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