“Heath,” according to the World Health Organization, “is a state of full physical, emotional and mental health and not just the absence of illness and infirmity.” Various definitions have been employed over the years for medical purposes. However, most commonly, health is understood to mean the absence of serious illness or disability. “itness” has also been used in several contexts to mean the quality of life.
In order to promote good health, public education about healthy living and exercise has been effective in many settings. For example, an annual epidemic of ear infections in children occurring after a cold or flu epidemic, as well as poor parental care leading to the child not growing up to be an active, healthy adult are examples of how the definition of “good health” can be distorted by advertising. Another area in which good health promotion is necessary is in the workplace, where workplaces can promote a healthy work culture. For example, a workplace that encourages employees to be physically active (which includes having regular physical activity as part of the job) is likely to have a lower occurrence of heart disease. It has been found that physical activity, such as exercise, leads to less body fat, more sleep, and reduced stress, which in turn leads to improved health and lower health-related bills.
An increasing number of health issues now occur in the United States, and the definition of “healthy” has shifted as public awareness of health issues increases. These issues include, but are not limited to, obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, and poor dietary practices (which includes obesity, especially among adults). In addition to these public health issues, some biological and environmental causes of these issues are increasingly being recognized. One such cause is the ability of some strains of yeast to convert carbohydrates in the body into sugar, resulting in the rise in diabetes.
The focus on managing disease and improving life-long health is necessary for an effective definition of “healthy”. Health promotion is necessary to address the concerns about diet and physical activity, and is part of an overall effort to promote a healthy lifestyle. This approach is necessary because current evidence suggests that the patterns of unhealthy living and behaviours continue to influence health even after people reach middle age or after they are fifty years old. It is for this reason that public health educators are adding education and counseling about healthy life-style changes to school programs for children and adolescents, and making these changes part of school curricula.
The challenge is to develop criteria for defining a condition that is common and universal, while still leaving room for individual variation within categories. The absence of a universal framework may lead to a lack of agreement about what is healthy, and may contribute to the confusion surrounding what constitute a medical condition. Despite this, there are four broad aspects of illness that are the basis of the American College of Rheumatology’s healthy life-course definition: absence, immunity, adaptability, and aging. Each is associated with one or more aspects of the illness, or may involve all of them.
Health promotion is a multi-faceted approach that recognizes that there are many social determinants of health. These include biological, behavioral, sociological, environmental, and sociocultural determinants. Public health education and promotion of health equity will recognize the impact of these different determinants on health, identify and address gaps in services that these various determinants create, and build upon the strength of the health care system to ensure that all persons have access to quality health services. The College’s vision is to work with communities to eliminate health disparities by promoting health equity and promoting access to quality health services for all.