Health is a complex phenomenon that encompasses an individual’s physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being. In 1948 the World Health Organization declared that health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (WHO).
The idea of what constitutes health is influenced by many factors including an individual’s genetics, environment, behaviours, and social connections and support networks. These are called “health determinants.”
Many people define health differently. For example, consider 82-year-old Betty. She takes seven different prescription medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and breast cancer. She lives in a spacious apartment with two cats, close friends, and a 50-gallon fish tank. She loves to travel and read. She eats healthy, exercises regularly, and gets plenty of sleep. She’s also a good cook and takes the time to clean her house. And she still manages to find time to play with her grandchildren. So is Betty healthy? According to her, “Absolutely!”
In the past, a common definition of health was one that defined health as the ability to conduct a productive life. But as the health challenges we face become increasingly complex and chronic, the old definition of health is no longer adequate. We need a new one that includes the presence of disease as well as its absence.
A person’s perception of health is influenced by his or her culture, beliefs, and values. This understanding is known as the lay perspective on health. Three important qualities of the lay perspective are wholeness, pragmatism and individualism. Wholeness refers to the idea that health is a holistic concept and that it involves all aspects of a person’s life. It also incorporates the idea that health is a resource and that individuals must be able to access it.
Pragmatism is the idea that health is a relative concept and that individuals should be able to balance their competing needs. It is about being able to cope with life’s stresses and enjoying the good things that it has to offer. It also means that health should be viewed as something that is continuously changing and developing.
Individualism refers to the idea that health is influenced by a person’s sense of self-worth, which in turn, influences how they define their health. It is about a person’s perception of what they are capable of achieving in life and how that affects their health. In digital society, the variety of views about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle is visible in different online spaces. These views can co-exist without hierarchy and precedence. Therefore, public health-related interventions should take into account these different understandings of health. This can help improve people’s capacity to cope with health-related issues and make healthy choices. This will result in improved health outcomes and increased overall quality of life. Ultimately, this is what everyone deserves. Achieving it may be challenging, but it is possible. The only thing that stands in the way is a will to change.