Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a state of full physical, mental and emotional well-being and not just the absence of illness and infirmity. A number of definitions have also been used over time for various purposes. In the United States, health is defined as the quality of life attained after leaving the secure state of the home and being exposed to different health risks and challenges. It is considered to be a state of optimum health, where one’s physical, emotional, and behavioral health is at its best. The goal of a healthy life is to be able to meet the needs and expectations of oneself and/or the society through strategies and practices that promote health.
The well-being definition may be defined as the ability to provide one’s self with the resources needed for the physical as well as the emotional well being. These resources may include appropriate nutrition, appropriate knowledge about the basic diseases as well as prevention methods, social support, and safe and effective personal hygiene. Wellness and health promotion are closely related, as it incorporates the concept of preventing or reducing risks in the face of prevailing trends and developments in the society. These risks that may cause undesirable effects to a person’s well-being includes obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, stress, lack of social interaction, lack of nutritional intake, and other such factors.
A great contribution to the definition of wellness and health is the work of the WHO (World Health Organization) and the United Nations. WHO defines wellness as the ability to enjoy a good level of physical health without limitations? According to WHO, a number of factors contribute towards achieving this level of well being including education, social setting, attitudes, general health, work experience, occupational exposure, and many other factors. Based on WHO’s research findings, there has been much discussion and debate on how to approach health promotion and wellness.
The concept of promoting a healthy lifestyle has become more important in current times because of the increasing rate of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, in the developed world. It is also responsible for the reduction in infant mortality, with all its associated problems. With all the focus on reducing the prevalence of such diseases as preventable conditions, it is no longer surprising to note that the number of people with high levels of stress is also on the rise, particularly in developed countries. Stress can lead to numerous physical health problems, such as hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and various types of cancer. The number of deaths from heart disease has been rising steadily in many countries.
The United Nations has put forth a good definition of health as “excess of health”. This definition is inclusive of measures of quality of life, with a special emphasis on the protection of the individual from the risk of suffering from diseases. According to the United Nations, a state of good health is necessary to cope with changes and challenges, while a state of poor health leaves you vulnerable to disease. Although there are many limitations to this definition, one thing is certain: a healthy lifestyle is the most important aspect of achieving good health.
The other two definitions – healthy lifestyle and disease prevention – are much closer in terms of their impact on quality of life, and their relationship to each other. Healthy life style, as the first definition suggests, encompasses all the aspects related to good health: adequate nutrition, regular exercise, avoiding addictive behaviours that trigger diseases, etc. Disease prevention, on the other hand, focuses on preventive measures, such as taking cholesterol and blood pressure levels under control, and avoiding exposure to environmental toxins. In essence, disease prevention involves controlling, or avoiding, exposure to environmental toxins (or enhancing the individual’s immunity), while building good nutrition habits.