Etymologically, the English word ‘health’, means wholeness, being whole, complete, sound, well. To ‘heal’ literally means to make whole. Health is one of the most fundamental conditions of life. Feeling healthy is core to our everyday lives and is reflected in the common greeting, ‘How are you?’ Rarely does a day go by when we do not consider our own health, and enquire about the health of others.
Health is a multidimensional concept whose interpretation is dependent on the context in which the term is used and the people who use it. People see health as essential to well-being, but how people define their own health varies according to their own social experience, particularly in relation to their age, personal knowledge, and social and illness experiences. Generally, people and cultures, groups and societies interpret the concept of health in different ways.
Although it has always been cherished as a priceless asset, this concept has been defined differently throughout history. Generally, the definitions differ with respect to the perspectives in how disciplines understand health and approaches they adopt. Earlier definitions mostly focused on the physical or biological aspects of disease and illness. Within this biomedical approach, health was considered a normal condition that at times could be disrupted by a disease. In this somewhat narrow view, health was seen as the condition in which there is an absence of disease, pain or injury. Due to its inadequacy and the advancements in medical and social sciences, numerous other approaches have flourished. The most widely quoted definition was formulated within the public health approach by World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948. As defined in the Constitution of the WHO “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. In Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion of 1986, the WHO provided a revised definition of health as: “The extent to which an individual or group is able to realize aspirations and satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment.” Under this broader definition, health is seen as a dynamic process that is “a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living”.