The way we define or describe something tells what we are thinking about and how we are going to achieve it or how important it is to us. So we consider the different streams of thought about the concept of Health. Health has been a common theme in most cultures. In fact, all communities have their concepts of wellbeing, as part of their culture.
Modern medicine is often accused for its preoccupation with the study of disease, and neglect of the study of health. Consequently the ignorance about health continues as for example the determinants of health are not yet clear; the current definitions of health are elusive and there is no single yardstick to measure health.
However during the past few decades, there has been a reawakening that health is a fundamental right and a world wide social goal. It is essential to the satisfaction of basic human needs and to an improved quality of life. In 1977, the 30th World Health Assembly decided that the main social target of the governments and WHO in the coming decade should be “Health For All”. With the adoption of health as an integral part of socio-economic development by the United Nations in 1979.
The Changing And Evolving Concepts Of Health:
An understanding of health is the basis of all health care. New concept of health is bound to emerge based on advance patterns of thought. Health has evolved over the centuries as a concept from an individual concern to a world wide social goal and encompasses the whole quality of life. The brief account of the changing concepts of health is given below:
- Biomedical Concept: Health is viewed as the absence of disease. This Biomedical concept has the basis in ‘Germ Theory of Disease‘ that dominated medical thought at the turn of 20th century. The medical profession viewed the human body as a machine, disease as the breakdown of machine and oneself as the mechanic. This concept has minimized the role of environmental, social, psychological and cultural determinants of health. So it was found inadequate to solve some of major health problems as malnutrition, accidents, drug abuse, mental illnesses, environmental pollution etc.
- Ecological Concept: This view considers health as the dynamic equilibrium between man and his environment, and disease as a maladjustment of the human organism to environment. Human ecological and cultural adaptations do determine not only the occurrence of disease but also the availability of food and the population explosion. This concept raised two issues – imperfect man and imperfect environment.
- Psychosocial Concepts: Contemporary developments in social sciences revealed that health is influenced by social, psychological, cultural, economic and political factors of the people concerned. These factors must be considered in defining and measuring health. Thus health is both a biological and social phenomenon.
- Holistic Concept: The holistic model is a synthesis of all the above concepts. It recognizes the strength of social, economic, political and environmental influences on health. It is described as the unified or multidimensional process involving the well being of the whole person in the context of his environment. This view corresponds to the one held by Ancients. The emphasis is on the promotion and protection of the health.
Definitions Of Health:
Most of us will find to define health as difficult but we would be confident of its meaning. Some of the definitions are:
- ‘The condition of being sound in body, mind or spirit esp. freedom from disease or pain.’ (Webster English Dictionary)
- ‘Soundness of body and mind; the condition in which its functions are duly and efficiently discharged.’ (Oxford English Dictionary)
- ‘A condition or quality of the human organism expressing the adequate functioning of the organism expressing the adequate functioning of the organism in the given conditions, genetic or environmental.’ (WHO – 1957, Techn. Rep. Ser. NO. 137)
- ‘A modus vivendi enabling imperfect man to achieve a rewarding and not too painful existence while they cope with an imperfect world.’ (Dubos, R. 1968; Man, Medicine And Environment)
- ‘A state of relative equilibrium of body form and function which results from its successful dynamic adjustment to forces tending to disturb it. It is not passive interplay between body substance and forces impinging upon it but an active response of body forces working toward readjustment.’ (Perkins)
WHO Defining Health:
The widely accepted definition of health is given by WHO in 1948 in the introduction of its constitution.
‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity.’
Ayurveda Defining Holistic Health:
Sushruta, the father of Indian Surgery defined health in Sushruta Samhita.
“When bodily humors are in dynamic equilibrium, the metabolic process are in dynamic equilibrium, all the tissues are functioning in harmony, all the excretory material is expelled out adequately and the soul and the ten sense organs and the mind is happy is the perfect state of health.” (Sushruta Samhita, Sutra section, Ch. 15: 44)
This description emphasize the biological, metabolic, seasonal, social, mental, spiritual, social, dietary and environmental dimensions of holistic health. It is neither too broad and nor too narrow to cover any aspect of health.