Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition “of full physical, emotional and social well being and not just the absence of illness and infirmity.” Various definitions have also been used over the years for various purposes. The definition is also known as the Hippocratic ideal of health.
The Hippocratic ideal of general well-being would be viewed as possessing a state of total health, including mental health, physical health, and social or spiritual health. However, the Hippocratic ideal is considered to be quite lofty as it also includes the aspects of personal and family well-being, as well as the aspects related to the environment and the society in which one lives. These aspects are closely related to medical care and medical education. In fact, health education is considered to be part of the Hippocratic view of health, as opposed to other philosophies that discount the importance of an overall holistic approach to health.
A major component of the Hippocratic ideal of health is the concept of determinism, which views health as something that can be achieved through the application of individual effort. In this framework, health behaviors are seen as self-sustaining and self-limiting. Individuals who practice good health behaviors are viewed to be capable of controlling their own bodies and minds. This approach to health care makes use of social determinants as means of making health interventions.
Social determinants are elements that are considered to influence individuals’ well-being. For instance, some social determinants are cultural, educational, occupational, geographical, interpersonal, economic, and psychological. A popular method of sociological determinants is the presence or absence of social support. For instance, the existence of supportive relationships, such as groups or families can affect an individual’s well-being. Similarly, people who are surrounded by opportunities to get education and acquire knowledge, such as colleges and universities, are seen to be better able to control their health and wellness.
Health and wellness can also be affected by the state of a person’s health or physical condition. If the individual experiences a decreased physical healthiness, such as being overweight or obese, he or she may be exposed to a number of health risks. A poor diet that is devoid of essential nutrition can also have negative effects. Other environmental factors such as reduced access to safe clean water and air, as well as a lack of exposure to natural light and fresh air, can also negatively impact health. In these cases, public health interventions focus on creating improved access to healthy foods, healthy environments, and appropriate access to quality health services.
The idea of public health and the Hippocratic view of health is not limited to societies with socioeconomic status differences. People from lower socioeconomic status as well as from disadvantaged sectors of society can benefit from improved access to physical environment, improved access to healthy food, improved access to quality healthcare services, and improved access to nutrition and physical education. Socioeconomic status and place are important determinants of health. However, there are other determinants of health, some of which are discussed below.