Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a condition of total health: body, mind and spirit that are appropriate to the surroundings and appropriate to the type of work one is engaged in.” A variety of other definitions have also been used over the years for various purposes. In our culture, the word “health” has typically been used to refer to a lifestyle condition or an absence of sickness. Today, however, health is often used as a stand-alone term with a more specific meaning. It has become a catchall term used to describe the four facets of good health – bodily functioning, mind/body health, attitude about health and hygiene.
The best way to conceptualize health is to think of it in terms of the body’s bioelectric field -its electrical field in its natural state. The field’s strength varies from person to person and from locale to locale. Some people have very high electricity flows while others have relatively low electric fields. The human body possesses electro-magnetic properties that are subject to both genetic and environmental influences. These influences result in variations in the bioelectric field that determine one’s state of health.
The primary goal of the health care industry is to provide patients with optimal health through a well-rounded comprehensive health system. This includes diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and conditions, maintenance of selected standard aspects of a patient’s health, and communication with other health professionals such as physicians and specialists. All of these components of a health care system work together in the overall goals of the health system. The health care system aims to keep everyone healthy by encouraging proper diet and nutrition, promoting regular exercise, and keeping patients well informed about their health and their condition. Since all of these processes depend on one interconnected whole, it is not surprising that health care systems try to define health in terms of a particular dimension of that whole.
The idea of defining health in terms of a dimension of the whole has had an interesting history. The very conception of health has roots in the ancient Greek and Roman philosophies of the “poisoned mind” and the idea that man is immortal. This immortality was linked to the belief that the soul lives after life, so that what a human body does at this point in time will have lasting effects on his or her spirit and psyche for eternity. These ideas influenced the way that medical practices were conducted in ancient times. From the standpoint of both philosophy and religion, the goal was to keep a man’s body healthy enough to sustain life long enough to pass on the teachings of the faith to future generations.
The field of mental health, on the other hand, has some roots in the history of Western Philosophy. Early writings on the disorders of the spirit point to a separation between the physical and the spiritual world, with the former believing that the spirit is trapped inside a body and can only be reached through therapy, prayer, and other outward means of discipline. In contrast, more conservative philosophies believe that all disorders are caused by either deficiencies of the mind or physical abnormalities. The goal of any definition of wellness is to promote mental health and wellbeing, with the ultimate end being the complete mental health of the individual.
Modern attitudes towards the definition of well-being have undergone a tremendous change. Whereas in the past only those who had disabilities as a result of sickness were able to define and appreciate their mental wellbeing, today even healthy people can question the value of good health. Surveys now show that many people consider the mental state to be just as important, if not more important than their physical health. This shift in public opinion towards mental wellbeing is probably due to the rising costs of illness and treatment, as well as the increased complexity of modern medicine. As modern medicine becomes more sophisticated and its function expanded, the emphasis on a complete treatment for illness and a cure for the disease has also increased.