Lecture 1 Readings - What is Health?

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Western University
Health Sciences
Health Sciences 2000A/B
Leichelle Little

LECTURE 1 READINGS: WHAT IS HEALTH? WHEN IS HEALTH, UNHEALTHY? How Should Health be Defined – Pg. 1363 – 1364 • April 7, 1948 – creation of World Health Organization • Set up with fundamental objective of “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health” • Defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” • Attempt to define health is futile – no definition can accurately capture its complexity The World Health Organization Needs to Reconsider its Definition of Health – Pg. 1409 – 1410 • Problems with the definition o Corresponds more closely to happiness than health which are both distinct experiences o For example, having a serious disease is likely to make one less happy, but not having a serious disease does not necessarily amount to happiness • Consequences of the definition – failing to distinguish between health and happiness has four main consequences o Any disturbance to happiness may be seen as a health problem o Because quest for happiness is essentially boundless, quest for health also becomes boundless – this legitimizes an unlimited demand for health services o Annexing happiness to health and regarding health as a universal positive right introduces an underlying perspective view of happiness in society o Trying to guarantee the unattainable happiness will inevitably subtract resources and jeopardize chances of guaranteeing gradually attainable justice and equity in health • Towards a solution o Descriptor of health would be helpful; would provide an intermediate concept linking the WHO’s ideal to the real world of health and disease as measurable by means of appropriate indicators of mortality, morbidity and quality of life o For example, “health is a condition of well being free of disease or infirmity and a basic and universal human right” The Conceptualization of Health • Four conceptual models of health – medical model, World Health Organization (WHO) model, wellness model and environmental model • The medical model o Health – absence of disease or infirmity o Most widely used in medical research o Focuses on disease and disability – their causes, prevention and cure o Distinguishes between disease, illness and health  Disease – condition of the body in which its structure or function is disturbed or deranged  Illness – individual perception that one is suffering from a disease o Limitations/criticisms  Difficulty of adapting it to emotional and psychiatric disorders  Also deemphasizes preventive medicine and ignores the social causes of diseases and social customs in defining disease  Another problem is that one can be ill without having a disease, perceiving symptoms without pathology, or one can have a disease without being ill, having a disease in a presymptomatic stage • The WHO model o Health – a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity o More holistic approach to health o Treats individuals as social beings whose health is affected by social behavior and interaction  Social health of a society may
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