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Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition has been subject to controversy, as it may have limited value for implementation. Health may be defined as the ability to adapt and manage physical, mental and social challenges throughout life.
History of Health
The meaning of health has evolved over time. In keeping with the biomedical perspective, early definitions of health focused on the theme of the body’s ability to function; health was seen as a state of normal function that could be disrupted from time to time by disease. An example of such a definition of health is: “a state characterized by anatomic, physiologic, and psychological integrity; ability to perform personally valued family, work, and community roles; ability to deal with physical, biological, psychological, and social stress“. Then in 1948, in a radical departure from previous definitions, the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a definition that aimed higher: linking health to well-being, in terms of “physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity“. Although this definition was welcomed by some as being innovative, it was also criticized as being vague, excessively broad and was not construed as measurable. For a long time, it was set aside as an impractical ideal and most discussions of health returned to the practicality of the biomedical model.
Just as there was a shift from viewing disease as a state to thinking of it as a process, the same shift happened in definitions of health. Again, the WHO played a leading role when it fostered the development of the health promotion movement in the 1980s. This brought in a new conception of health, not as a state, but in dynamic terms of resiliency, in other words, as “a resource for living“. 1984 WHO revised the definition of health defined it 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. Health is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living; it is a positive concept, emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities“. Thus, health referred to the ability to maintain homeostasis and recover from insults. Mental, intellectual, emotional and social health referred to a person’s ability to handle stress, to acquire skills, to maintain relationships, all of which form resources for resiliency and independent living. This opens up many possibilities for health to be taught, strengthened and learned.
Since the late 1970s, the federal Healthy People Initiative has been a visible component of the United States’ approach to improving population health. In each decade, a new version of Healthy People is issued, featuring updated goals and identifying topic areas and quantifiable objectives for health improvement during the succeeding ten years, with assessment at that point of progress or lack thereof. Progress has been limited to many objectives, leading to concerns about the effectiveness of Healthy People in shaping outcomes in the context of a decentralized and uncoordinated US health system. Healthy People 2020 gives more prominence to health promotion and preventive approaches and adds a substantive focus on the importance of addressing social determinants of health. A new expanded digital interface facilitates use and dissemination rather than bulky printed books as produced in the past. The impact of these changes to Healthy People will be determined in the coming years.
Systematic activities to prevent or cure health problems and promote good health in humans are undertaken by health care providers. Applications with regard to animal health are covered by the veterinary sciences. The term “healthy” is also widely used in the context of many types of non-living organizations and their impacts for the benefit of humans, such as in the sense of healthy communities, healthy cities or healthy environments. In addition to health care interventions and a person’s surroundings, a number of other factors are known to influence the health status of individuals, including their background, lifestyle, and economic, social conditions and spirituality; these are referred to as “determinants of health.” Studies have shown that high levels of stress can affect human health.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the conceptualization of health as an ability opened the door for self-assessments to become the main indicators to judge the performance of efforts aimed at improving human health. It also created the opportunity for every person to feel healthy, even in the presence of multiple chronic diseases, or a terminal condition, and for the re-examination of determinants of health, away from the traditional approach that focuses on the reduction of the prevalence of diseases.
What are the Determinants of Ones Health Status?
Generally, the context in which an individual lives is of great importance for both his health status and quality of their life. It is increasingly recognized that health is maintained and improved not only through the advancement and application of health science, but also through the efforts and intelligent lifestyle choices of the individual and society. According to the World Health Organization, the main determinants of health include the social and economic environment, the physical environment and the person’s individual characteristics and behaviors.
More specifically, key factors that have been found to influence whether people are healthy or unhealthy include the following:
- Income social status
- Social support networks
- Education and literacy
- Employment/working conditions
- Social environments
- Physical environments
- Personal health practices and coping skills
- Healthy child development
- Biology and genetics
- Health care services
An increasing number of studies and reports from different organizations and contexts examine the linkages between health and different factors, including lifestyles, environments, health care organization and health policy, one specific health policy brought into many countries in recent years was the introduction of the sugar tax. Beverage taxes came into light with increasing concerns about obesity, particularly among youth. Sugar-sweetened beverages have become a target of anti-obesity initiatives with increasing evidence of their link to obesity. – such as the 1974 Lalonde report from Canada; the Alameda County Study in California; and the series of World Health Reports of the World Health Organization, which focuses on global health issues including access to health care and improving public health outcomes, especially in developing countries.
The concept of the “health field,” as distinct from medical care, emerged from the Lalonde report from Canada. The report identified three interdependent fields as key determinants of an individual’s health. These are
- Lifestyle: the aggregation of personal decisions (i.e., over which the individual has control) that can be said to contribute to, or cause, illness or death;
- Environmental: all matters related to health external to the human body and over which the individual has little or no control;
- Biomedical: all aspects of health, physical and mental, developed within the human body as influenced by genetic make-up.
The maintenance and promotion of health is achieved through different combination of physical, mental, and social well-being, together sometimes referred to as the “health triangle.” The WHO’s 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion further stated that health is not just a state, but also “a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities.”
Focusing more on lifestyle issues and their relationships with functional health, data from the Alameda County Study suggested that people can improve their health via exercise, enough sleep, maintaining a healthy body weight, limiting alcohol use, and avoiding smoking. Health and illness can co-exist, as even people with multiple chronic diseases or terminal illnesses can consider themselves healthy.
The environment is often cited as an important factor influencing the health status of individuals. This includes characteristics of the natural environment, the built environment and the social environment. Factors such as clean water and air, adequate housing, and safe communities and roads all have been found to contribute to good health, especially to the health of infants and children. Some studies have shown that a lack of neighborhood recreational spaces including natural environment leads to lower levels of personal satisfaction and higher levels of obesity, linked to lower overall health and well being. This suggests that the positive health benefits of natural space in urban neighborhoods should be taken into account in public policy and land use.
Genetics, or inherited traits from parents, also play a role in determining the health status of individuals and populations. This can encompass both the predisposition to certain diseases and health conditions, as well as the habits and behaviors individuals develop through the lifestyle of their families. For example, genetics may play a role in the manner in which people cope with stress, either mental, emotional or physical. For example, obesity is a significant problem in the United States that contributes to bad mental health and causes stress in the lives of great numbers of people. (One difficulty is the issue raised by the debate over the relative strengths of genetics and other factors; interactions between genetics and environment may be of particular importance.)
Maintaining a Healthy Life Style
Achieving and maintaining health is an ongoing process, shaped by both the evolution of health care knowledge and practices as well as personal strategies and organized interventions for staying healthy.
- Diet: An important way to maintain your personal health is to have a healthy diet. A healthy diet includes a variety of plant-based and animal-based foods that provide nutrients to your body. Such nutrients give you energy and keep your body running. Nutrients help build and strengthen bones, muscles, and tendons and also regulate body processes (i.e. blood pressure). The food guide pyramid is a pyramid-shaped guide of healthy foods divided into sections. Each section shows the recommended intake for each food group (i.e. Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates, and Sugars). Making healthy food choices is important because it can lower your risk of heart disease, developing some types of cancer, and it will contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.
The Mediterranean diet is commonly associated with health-promoting effects due to the fact that it contains some bioactive compounds like phenolic compounds, isoprenoids and alkaloids.
- Exercise: Physical exercise enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. It strengthens muscles and improves the cardiovascular system. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are four types of exercise: endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance.
- Sleep: Sleep is an essential component to maintaining health. In children, sleep is also vital for growth and development. Ongoing sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk for some chronic health problems. In addition, sleep deprivation has been shown to correlate with both increased susceptibility to illness and slower recovery times from illness. In one study, people with chronic insufficient sleep, set as six hours of sleep a night or less, were found to be four times more likely to catch a cold compared to those who reported sleeping for seven hours or more a night. Due to the role of sleep in regulating metabolism, insufficient sleep may also play a role in weight gain or, conversely, in impeding weight loss. Additionally, in 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is the cancer research agency for the World Health Organization, declared that “shiftwork that involves circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans,” speaking to the dangers of long-term nighttime work due to its intrusion on sleep. In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation released updated recommendations for sleep duration requirements based on age and concluded that “Individuals who habitually sleep outside the normal range may be exhibiting signs or symptoms of serious health problems or, if done volitionally, may be compromising their health and well-being.“
|Age and condition||Sleep Needs|
|Toddlers (1–2 years)||11 to 14 hours|
|Teenagers (14–17 years)||8 to 10 hours|
|School-age children (6–13 years)||9 to 11 hours|
|Preschoolers (3–5 years)||10 to 13 hours|
|Older Adults (65 years and over)||7 to 8 hours|
|Newborns (0–3 months)||14 to 17 hours|
|Infants (4–11 months)||12 to 15 hours|
|Adults (18–64 years)||7 to 9 hours|
Safety is the state of being “safe” (from French sauf), the condition of being protected from harm or other non-desirable outcomes. Safety can also refer to the control of recognized hazards in order to achieve an acceptable level of risk.
Meanings of Safety
There are two slightly different meanings of safety. For example, home safety may indicate a building’s ability to protect against external harm events (such as weather, home invasion, etc.), or may indicate that its internal installations (such as appliances, stairs, etc.) are safe (not dangerous or harmful) for its inhabitants.
Discussions of safety often include mention of related terms. Security is such a term. With time the definitions between these two have often become interchanged, equated, and frequently appear juxtaposed in the same sentence. Readers unfortunately are left to conclude whether they comprise a redundancy. This confuses the uniqueness that should be reserved for each by itself. When seen as unique, as we intend here, each term will assume its rightful place in influencing and being influenced by the other.
Safety is the condition of a “steady state” of an organization or place doing what it is supposed to do. “What it is supposed to do” is defined in terms of public codes and standards, associated architectural and engineering designs, corporate vision and mission statements, and operational plans and personnel policies. For any organization, place, or function, large or small, safety is a normative concept. It complies with situation-specific definitions of what is expected and acceptable.
Using this definition, protection from a home’s external threats and protection from its internal structural and equipment failures (see Meanings, above) are not two types of safety but rather two aspects of a home’s steady state.
In the world of everyday affairs, not all goes as planned. Some entity’s steady state is challenged. This is where security science, which is of more recent date, enters. Drawing from the definition of safety, then:
Security is the process or means, physical or human, of delaying, preventing, and otherwise protecting against external or internal, defects, dangers, loss, criminals, and other individuals or actions that threaten, hinder or destroy an organization’s “steady state,” and deprive it of its intended purpose for being.
Using this generic definition of safety it is possible to specify the elements of a security program.
Security is freedom from, or resilience against, potential harm (or other unwanted coercive change) from external forces. Beneficiaries (technically referents) of security may be persons and social groups, objects and institutions, ecosystems, and any other entity or phenomenon vulnerable to unwanted change by its environment.
Security mostly refers to protection from hostile forces, but it has a wide range of other senses: for example, as the absence of harm (e.g. freedom from want); as the presence of an essential good (e.g. food security); as resilience against potential damage or harm (e.g. secure foundations); as secrecy (e.g. a secure telephone line); as containment (e.g. a secure room or cell); and as a state of mind (e.g. emotional security).
The term is also used to refer to acts and systems whose purpose may be to provide security: (e.g. security forces; security guard; cyber security systems; security cameras; remote guarding).