A Working Definition of Health

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

It is a complex balance of biological processes and determinants that maintains the functioning of bodily systems and functions, protects people against diseases, and enhances their quality of life. A person's health depends on many factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and access to health care services.

A healthy lifestyle, such as a balanced diet and regular exercise, helps people reduce their risk of disease and improve their physical fitness. They may also seek medical treatment to prevent or treat illnesses that occur, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

Some researchers have called for a more dynamic definition of health, one that recognizes that the environment and personal factors change over time and across the life span. This view of health is linked to the concept of adaptation, which acknowledges that a person's health is influenced by their ability to adapt and thrive in rapidly changing circumstances.

This view of health reflects the reality that our lives are highly interconnected and that changes to our surroundings can dramatically affect our health. For example, war, disasters, economic disruptions, governmental policies, and loss of spouse or livelihood can result in physical, emotional, and psychological stresses that can compromise our well-being.

While the 1948 World Health Organization (WHO) definition of health remains in popular use, there is a growing interest in alternative views that expand our understanding of this concept. This paper presents a new working definition of health: "Health is the dynamic balance of physical, mental, social, and existential well-being in adapting to conditions of life and the environment."

The proposed definition has implications for research, policy, and practice. It is intended to stimulate discussions on how health is conceptualized and its implications for addressing health disparities among marginalized groups.

It is essential to understand that the nature of health varies across the globe, and that the same factors that contribute to good health in one country, community, or person may be detrimental to another. These differences are shaped by economic, cultural, and social conditions. A person's access to health services is also impacted by these social and economic factors.

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