what is the new definition of health?

The WHO defines health as a state of "complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, together with a number of WHO partners, endorse this definition. Taking an epistemological perspective, the need for a single definition must be rejected in favour of a pluralistic approach in which there can be no single best definition of health but many different definitions, more or less useful depending on the scope of application. Importantly, the definition emphasises the importance of meeting all the specific needs of the patient, which should encompass the full spectrum of care, including the management of co-morbidities, complications and the patient's unique circumstances, as well as the prevention of future illness.

By emphasising patients, their specific medical needs and the health system that can meet them, this new definition sets an unambiguous and enforceable standard that providers can strive to achieve. The contemporary definition of health recognises that illness and disability can and often do co-exist with health. According to this definition, health is not a desirable state in itself, but a means to fulfilling role obligations. This definition has evolved many times, often reflecting the specific beliefs and levels of scientific and medical understanding of that particular era.

If these experiments work, and the transition to a new era of healthcare is successful, a new definition of health is also needed. This definition adds to the WHO definition the critical need for technology and infrastructure to support a patient-centred health system. More alternative definitions of health are being sought in light of the myriad challenges facing not only the US healthcare system, but also systems in other developed and developing countries. For nearly 70 years, many health professionals have used the definition of health proposed by the World Health Organisation in 1948.In this new definition, health is the combined elements of body, mind and spirit working in harmony to create the basis for the fullness of life.

In the margins of implementing COP21 decisions that should restore man's place in the environment, indigenous peoples' leaders, anthropologists and physicians explain why these three concepts are fundamental and universal determinants of health, and should be included in a new WHO definition of health. Huber and colleagues suggest that the problem with the WHO definition is the absolute nature of "complete" wellbeing.

Erika Ossenfort
Erika Ossenfort

Hipster-friendly food fan. Professional pop culture advocate. Freelance internet ninja. Devoted web fan. Extreme music evangelist.

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