The Determinants of Health


Health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being and not just the absence of disease or infirmity. It is one of the fundamental rights of people and requires the fullest cooperation of governments to achieve it. Multiple definitions exist, ranging from a precise biomedical or physical definition that is easy to measure and provides clarity of the causal connections between medical and public health care systems and measured outcomes to the more broad definition of the World Health Organization: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and that is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The origins of health are multi-sectorial and interconnected. They include genetic endowment, environmental conditions, lifestyle choices, access to healthcare, diet, and many other factors that influence a wide array of health outcomes. While some of these factors (such as genetics) are not amenable to direct intervention, others, such as diet and education, are. These interventions can improve the health of individuals and populations by increasing resiliency to change, and the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances.

Modern science is making rapid progress in identifying diseases, understanding how they work, and finding ways to slow or stop them. As a result, the number of people who suffer from disease continues to decline globally. However, most people still experience a health problem at some point in their lives. These illnesses can range from the common cold to cancer. Many of them are chronic, such as arthritis or heart disease. Others are infectious, such as malaria or HIV. Some people may have 2 or more chronic conditions at the same time, a situation called multimorbidity.

A key challenge for health professionals and policymakers is how to respond to the continuing challenge of new inequalities in the determinants of health. To do this, they need to have a deeper understanding of the role of health in society and how it is produced. A better way to understand the determinants of health is to use a field model.

A key step in developing a health article is to find an idea that interests and engages readers. Finding the right topic requires some thinking and reflection, and often isn’t easy. This is particularly true if you are writing for a specific audience, such as a general readership, a scientific audience, or a group of health advocates. It is also important to consider the format of your piece: will it be a short news story, an in-depth feature article, or a profile of a researcher? The answer to this question will affect the focus of your ideas. The more you invest in this phase of the process, the easier it will be to write an article that meets readers’ needs and expectations.