What is the Definition of Health According to WHO 1999?

September 24, 2023 By cleverkidsedu

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This definition was adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1999, emphasizing the importance of holistic health.

According to WHO, health is a fundamental human right and is essential for the overall development of an individual. It is not just the absence of illness or disease, but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. The definition also emphasizes the importance of social factors, such as the environment, community, and culture, in determining the health of an individual.

This definition has been widely accepted by the international community and has been used as a benchmark for measuring the health of populations and setting health goals. It serves as a reminder that health is not just an individual responsibility, but a collective one that requires a comprehensive approach to achieve.

Quick Answer:
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition emphasizes that health is a holistic concept that encompasses physical, mental, and social aspects of a person’s life, and not just the absence of illness or disability. It also highlights the importance of social factors, such as access to education, income, and supportive relationships, in promoting overall health and well-being. The WHO’s definition of health serves as a framework for understanding the complex and multifaceted nature of health and guides public health efforts to promote health and reduce illness and disability worldwide.

The WHO’s Definition of Health

In its 1999 publication, “Health for All,” the World Health Organization (WHO) provided a comprehensive definition of health. According to the WHO, health is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, but rather a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. This definition recognizes that health encompasses a broad range of factors, including physical health, mental health, and social well-being, all of which are essential for an individual’s overall health and well-being.

The WHO’s definition of health is significant because it emphasizes the importance of holistic health, rather than just focusing on the treatment of specific diseases or conditions. It recognizes that health is not just the absence of disease, but rather a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. This definition has been widely adopted by many countries and organizations around the world and serves as a guiding principle for promoting and improving global health.

Factors Contributing to Health

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The WHO defines health as a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is influenced by various factors, including:

Key takeaway: The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not just the absence of disease or infirmity. Health is influenced by various factors, including biological, environmental, lifestyle, social, psychological, and cultural factors. Personal responsibility and community engagement are crucial for maintaining good health, as well as ensuring access to quality healthcare and promoting health equity in healthcare systems.

Biological Factors

Biological factors such as genetics, age, and sex can impact an individual’s health. For example, genetic predispositions to certain diseases can increase an individual’s risk of developing those diseases. Age can also affect health, as older individuals may be more susceptible to certain health conditions. Finally, sex can impact health, as males and females may have different health needs and risks.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors such as pollution, climate, and access to clean water and sanitation can also impact an individual’s health. For example, exposure to pollution can increase the risk of respiratory diseases, while access to clean water and sanitation can reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses.

Lifestyle Factors

Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and smoking can also impact an individual’s health. For example, a diet high in processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, smoking can increase the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

Social Factors

Social factors such as income, education, and social support can also impact an individual’s health. For example, individuals with lower income may have less access to healthcare and may be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and consuming unhealthy foods. Additionally, social support can play a role in mental health and overall well-being.

Overall, health is influenced by a variety of factors, and understanding these factors can help individuals and communities take steps to promote and maintain good health.

Genetics

Genetics play a significant role in determining an individual’s health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Genetics, which refers to the inherited traits and characteristics passed down from parents to offspring, can impact an individual’s susceptibility to certain diseases and conditions. For example, a person with a family history of heart disease may be at a higher risk of developing the condition themselves.

Nutrition

Nutrition is another important biological factor that affects health. A balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, is necessary for maintaining good health. Poor nutrition, on the other hand, can lead to malnutrition and other health problems. For instance, a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Physical activity

Physical activity is another key biological factor that contributes to health. Regular exercise has numerous benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Additionally, physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight, improve mental health, and increase energy levels. The WHO recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with strength-training exercises at least twice per week.

Social and Environmental Factors

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The organization recognizes that a range of factors, including social and environmental factors, can influence an individual’s health status.

  • Family and friends: The support and care provided by family and friends can have a significant impact on an individual’s overall health and well-being. Positive relationships can help reduce stress, promote a sense of belonging, and provide emotional support during difficult times. Conversely, conflict or lack of support from family and friends can negatively impact health.
  • Community support: The level of support and engagement within a community can also play a role in an individual’s health. Strong communities often provide access to resources such as healthy food options, safe recreational spaces, and social activities that promote physical and mental well-being. Conversely, communities lacking in support and resources can contribute to poor health outcomes.
  • Access to healthcare: Access to healthcare services is essential for maintaining good health. Individuals who have access to preventative care, such as regular check-ups and vaccinations, are more likely to catch health problems early and prevent them from becoming more serious. In addition, timely access to medical treatment can help manage chronic conditions and reduce the risk of complications.
  • Housing conditions: The conditions in which an individual lives can also impact their health. Poor housing conditions, such as overcrowding, inadequate heating or cooling, or exposure to environmental hazards, can contribute to the development of respiratory illnesses, allergies, and other health problems.
  • Environmental pollution: Exposure to environmental pollutants, such as air pollution, water pollution, and chemicals, can also have a negative impact on health. These pollutants can contribute to the development of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, among other health problems. In addition, exposure to environmental pollutants can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to other health problems.

Psychological Factors

Psychological factors play a significant role in determining an individual’s overall health status. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health, stress management, and coping skills are key psychological factors that contribute to health.

Mental Health

Mental health refers to the state of emotional and psychological well-being that influences thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Mental health is a critical component of overall health, and it is essential for individuals to maintain positive mental health to achieve optimal health outcomes. Common mental health conditions include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Stress Management

Stress is a natural response to the demands and challenges of daily life. However, excessive stress can have adverse effects on health, including cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and mental health conditions. Effective stress management techniques include exercise, relaxation techniques, and social support.

Coping Skills

Coping skills refer to the strategies and techniques individuals use to manage stress and adversity. Developing effective coping skills can help individuals to maintain positive mental health and prevent the development of mental health conditions. Coping skills can be learned and developed through therapy, counseling, and self-help techniques.

Cultural Factors

Beliefs and values

Beliefs and values play a crucial role in shaping an individual’s perception of health. Culture influences the beliefs and values that people hold, which in turn affect their behaviors and actions related to health. For example, in some cultures, traditional healing practices may be viewed as more effective than modern medicine, which can impact an individual’s decision to seek medical treatment.

Traditions and customs

Traditions and customs are another important aspect of cultural factors that contribute to health. These practices may have been passed down from generation to generation and are often deeply ingrained in a culture. For instance, in some cultures, certain foods are considered taboo or are only eaten on special occasions. These dietary practices can impact an individual’s nutritional status and overall health.

Language and communication

Language and communication are essential components of cultural factors that affect health. Language is a tool for communication, and cultural differences in language can impact the way health information is conveyed. Additionally, cultural differences in communication styles can affect how health information is received and understood. For example, some cultures may place a greater emphasis on direct communication, while others may value more indirect forms of communication. These differences can impact the effectiveness of health education and communication efforts.

Implications of the WHO’s Definition of Health

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of health, which was adopted in 1999, has significant implications for individuals, communities, and societies. Here are some of the key implications:

Promotion of Well-being

The WHO’s definition of health emphasizes the importance of promoting well-being and preventing illness. This means that individuals and communities should focus on creating environments that support healthy lifestyles, such as access to clean water, sanitation, and safe housing.

Holistic Approach to Health

The WHO’s definition of health takes a holistic approach, recognizing that health is not just the absence of disease but also includes physical, mental, and social well-being. This means that healthcare providers and policymakers must consider the social and environmental factors that impact health, such as poverty, discrimination, and access to education.

Reduction of Health Inequalities

The WHO’s definition of health recognizes that health inequalities exist and that they are often caused by social, economic, and environmental factors. This means that efforts to reduce health inequalities must address the root causes of these inequalities, such as poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to healthcare.

Emphasis on Prevention

The WHO’s definition of health emphasizes the importance of prevention, rather than just treatment of illness. This means that individuals and communities should focus on creating environments that support healthy behaviors, such as regular exercise and healthy eating, and that promote access to healthcare services.

Overall, the WHO’s definition of health has important implications for individuals, communities, and societies, emphasizing the importance of promoting well-being, taking a holistic approach to health, reducing health inequalities, and emphasizing prevention.

Personal Responsibility

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an essential aspect of personal responsibility when it comes to health, as per the WHO’s definition. This includes engaging in regular physical activity, consuming a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding harmful substances such as tobacco and alcohol.

Seeking preventive care is another critical aspect of personal responsibility, as it allows individuals to take proactive steps to maintain their health and prevent illnesses. This includes regular check-ups, vaccinations, and screenings for various health conditions.

Managing stress and mental health is also crucial for personal responsibility, as stress can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being. This includes engaging in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or exercise, as well as seeking professional help when needed.

It is important to note that personal responsibility does not mean that individuals should solely rely on their own efforts to maintain their health. Instead, it involves taking an active role in managing one’s health while also seeking the support and care of healthcare professionals when necessary.

Community Engagement

Community engagement is a critical aspect of promoting health and well-being. It involves actively participating in activities that improve the quality of life in one’s community. This can include supporting friends and family, participating in community activities, and advocating for social and environmental changes.

Supporting Friends and Family

Supporting friends and family is an essential part of community engagement. It involves being there for others, providing emotional support, and helping to improve their overall well-being. This can include providing a listening ear, offering advice, or simply being present during difficult times.

Participating in Community Activities

Participating in community activities is another critical aspect of community engagement. This can include volunteering, attending local events, or participating in community organizations. By engaging in these activities, individuals can build connections with others, improve their sense of belonging, and contribute to the overall health and well-being of their community.

Advocating for Social and Environmental Changes

Advocating for social and environmental changes is a crucial aspect of community engagement. It involves working to improve the social and environmental conditions that can impact health and well-being. This can include advocating for better access to healthcare, promoting environmental sustainability, or working to address social inequalities. By engaging in these activities, individuals can help to create a more supportive and healthy environment for themselves and their community.

Healthcare Systems

Ensuring access to quality healthcare

One of the primary implications of the WHO’s definition of health is the need for healthcare systems to ensure access to quality healthcare for all individuals. This includes providing accessible and affordable healthcare services, as well as ensuring that healthcare providers are adequately trained and equipped to provide care.

Promoting health equity

Healthcare systems must also promote health equity by addressing disparities in health outcomes and access to care. This includes addressing social determinants of health, such as poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to education and employment opportunities, which can have a significant impact on an individual’s health.

Prioritizing prevention and wellness

In addition to providing access to healthcare services, healthcare systems must prioritize prevention and wellness to promote the overall health of individuals and communities. This includes implementing policies and programs that encourage healthy behaviors, such as regular exercise and healthy eating, as well as providing access to resources that support mental and emotional well-being.

Overall, the WHO’s definition of health emphasizes the importance of ensuring access to quality healthcare, promoting health equity, and prioritizing prevention and wellness in healthcare systems. By prioritizing these goals, healthcare systems can work towards promoting the overall health and well-being of individuals and communities.

FAQs

1. What is the definition of health according to WHO 1999?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its 1999 document “Health Promotion Glossary” as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition emphasizes that health is a holistic concept that encompasses physical, mental, and social aspects of a person’s life, and not just the absence of illness or disability.

2. Why did WHO update its definition of health in 1999?

WHO updated its definition of health in 1999 to reflect a more comprehensive understanding of health and well-being. The previous definition, which focused solely on the absence of disease, was seen as too narrow and incomplete. The new definition recognizes that health is influenced by a wide range of factors, including social, economic, and environmental conditions, and that it is essential to address these factors in order to promote health and well-being.

3. How does the WHO definition of health differ from other definitions?

The WHO definition of health is unique in that it emphasizes the importance of physical, mental, and social well-being. Other definitions of health may focus on different aspects of health or prioritize different factors. For example, some definitions of health may emphasize the importance of physical fitness or the absence of disease, while others may prioritize mental or emotional well-being. The WHO definition is meant to be comprehensive and inclusive, reflecting the complex and multifaceted nature of health.

4. What are some implications of the WHO definition of health for health promotion?

The WHO definition of health has important implications for health promotion. Health promotion is the process of enabling people to improve their health and well-being by providing them with information, education, and resources. The WHO definition emphasizes the importance of addressing social, economic, and environmental factors that influence health, as well as promoting physical, mental, and social well-being. This means that health promotion efforts should focus on a wide range of interventions, including education, policy change, and community engagement, in order to promote health and well-being in all aspects of a person’s life.

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