The word “health” has a multitude of different meanings depending on who you ask. Generally, health is a state of well-being with no signs of illness, disease or infirmity. It also refers to the body’s ability to withstand stress, whether in the form of pain, infection, injury or force. According to the World Health Organization, “health” is “a state of total physical, mental and emotional well-being and not simply the absence of illness and disease.” Various definitions have been used over time for various purposes.
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACFE) defines health as “the state of being at least healthy; the ability to perform the essential functions of life; the capacity to interact productively with others; the ability to live a life that is fulfilling and meaningful.” Another group, the American College of Nutrition (ACN), defines it as “the quality of life that results from an individual’s eating habits, physical activity level, social environment, and emotional well-being.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition of it as “the condition of a person’s health at the time that he or she is born, the age at which he or she experiences some of the risk factors associated with health and death.” Finally, the WHO defines it as “exceedingly good health throughout a person’s life” and “the maintenance of an optimum health condition for an adult.”
The idea of health can be viewed within different frameworks. Some see it as the quality of life that a person experiences throughout their life as well as the things like cultural norms, social determinants of health and physiological processes that affect one’s health. For example, cultural norms regarding smoking are thought to be one of the social determinants of health. And understanding the social determinants of health helps explain why some groups of people experience high levels of health disparities in terms of both wellness and morbidity.
The concept of wellness has expanded beyond individual wellness to include the quality of life that a person experiences as a result of their individual circumstances. For example, being overweight or obese can lead to various diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and various kinds of cancer. Similarly, not exercising regularly can lead to various kinds of medical problems. It is important for public health as well as medical care, to take these into account when designing public policies and programs. One of the most significant efforts in this direction has been made through the development of a healthy diet and exercise guidelines. This has helped to bring about improvements in obesity rates as well as in the overall quality of health care across the globe.
Another important area is the quality of the built environment. A number of studies have shown that healthy foods are built into a house from conception and this also determines the level of health and well-being a family enjoys. In addition, the built environment also encourages the implementation of healthy behaviors and this, in turn, can significantly reduce health disparities across communities. This means that when a family lives in a home that is well designed with healthy foods and activities, they are more likely to adopt similar behaviors.
In a number of other arenas, the promotion of physical fitness could help to address the problem of health disparities. An increase in physical fitness could help to decrease the incidence of disability and disease, while it could also lead to greater economic stability. For instance, walking to work or the use of mass transit has been found to be very cost-effective and could help to reduce health disparities across communities. There is also evidence that suggests that the introduction of physical fitness programs in schools could help to eliminate health literacy.