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- For the science of human and animal health, see Health science.
Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being. In humans, it is the general condition of a person's mind, body and spirit, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain (as in "good health" or "healthy"). The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its broader sense in 1946 as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Although this definition has been subject to controversy, in particular as lacking operational value and because of the problem created by use of the word "complete", it remains the most enduring. Classification systems such as the WHO Family of International Classifications, including the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), are commonly used to define and measure the components of health.
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."
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 and social conditions; these are referred to as "determinants of health".
Aspects of Health
- Main article: Physical fitness
- Main article: Human height
A strong indicator of the health of populations is height, which is generally increased by improving nutrition and health care, and is also influenced by standard of living and quality of life matters. The study of human growth, its regulators, and its implications is known as sexology.
- Main article: Mental health
The World Health Organization describes mental health as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community".
Roughly a quarter of all adults 18 and over in the US suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the US and Canada. Examples of disorders include, schizophrenia, ADHD, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism.
Determinants of health
Generally, the context in which an individual lives is of great importance for his health status and quality of 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.
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 - 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.
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. The ability to adapt and to self manage have been suggested as core components of human health.
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. (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.)
- Main article: Self care
Personal health depends partially on the active, passive, and assisted cues people observe and adopt about their own health. These include personal actions for preventing or minimizing the effects of a disease, usually a chronic condition, through integrative care. They also include personal hygiene practices to prevent infection and illness, such as bathing and washing hands with soap; brushing and flossing teeth; storing, preparing and handling food safely; and many others. The information gleaned from personal observations of daily living - such as about sleep patterns, exercise behavior, nutritional intake, and environmental features - may be used to inform personal decisions and actions (e.g., "I feel tired in the morning so I am going to try sleeping on a different pillow"), as well as clinical decisions and treatment plans (e.g., a patient who notices his or her shoes are tighter than usual may be having exacerbation of left-sided heart failure, and may require diuretic medication to reduce fluid overload).
Personal health also depends partially on the social structure of a person's life. The maintenance of strong social relationships, volunteering, and other social activities have been linked to positive mental health and even increased longevity. One American study among seniors over age 70 found that frequent volunteering was associated with reduced risk of dying compared with older persons who did not volunteer, regardless of physical health status. Another study from Singapore reported that volunteering retirees had significantly better cognitive performance scores, fewer depressive symptoms, and better mental well-being and life satisfaction than non-volunteering retirees.
Prolonged psychological stress may negatively impact health, and has been cited as a factor in cognitive impairment with aging, depressive illness, and expression of disease. Stress management is the application of methods to either reduce stress or increase tolerance to stress. Relaxation techniques are physical methods used to relieve stress. Psychological methods include cognitive therapy, meditation, and positive thinking, which work by reducing response to stress. Improving relevant skills, such as problem solving and time management skills, reduces uncertainty and builds confidence, which also reduces the reaction to stress-causing situations where those skills are applicable.
Achieving health and remaining healthy is an active process. Effective strategies for staying healthy and improving one's health to an optimum level include the following elements:
- Main article: Nutrition
Nutrition is the science that studies how what people eat affects their health and performance, such as foods or food components that cause diseases or deteriorate health (such as eating too many calories, which is a major contributing factor to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease). The field of nutrition also studies foods and dietary supplements that improve performance, promote health, and cure or prevent disease, such as eating fibrous foods to reduce the risk of colon cancer, or supplementing with vitamin C to strengthen teeth and gums and to improve the immune system.
Between extremes of optimal health and death from starvation or malnutrition, there is an array of disease states that can be caused or alleviated by changes in diet. Deficiencies, excesses and imbalances in diet can produce negative impacts on health, which may lead to diseases such as scurvy, obesity or osteoporosis, as well as psychological and behavioral problems. Moreover, excessive ingestion of elements that have no apparent role in health, (e.g. lead, mercury, PCBs, dioxins), may incur toxic and potentially lethal effects, depending on the dose. The science of nutrition attempts to understand how and why specific dietary aspects influence health.
- Main article: Physical exercise
[[Exercise is the performance of movements in order to develop or maintain physical fitness and overall health. It is often directed toward also honing athletic ability or skill. Frequent and regular physical exercise is an important component in the prevention of some of the diseases of affluence such as cancer, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and back pain.
Exercises are generally grouped into three types depending on the overall effect they have on the human body:
- Flexibility exercises such as stretching improve the range of motion of muscles and joints.
- Aerobic exercises such as walking and running focus on increasing cardiovascular endurance and muscle density.
- Anaerobic exercises such as weight training or sprinting increase muscle mass and strength.
Physical exercise is considered important for maintaining physical fitness including healthy weight; building and maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints; promoting physiological well-being; reducing surgical risks; and strengthening the immune system.
Proper nutrition is just as, if not more, important to health as exercise. When exercising it becomes even more important to have good diet to ensure the body has the correct ratio of macronutrients whilst providing ample micronutrients; this is to aid the body with the recovery process following strenuous exercise. When the body falls short of proper nutrition, it gets into starvation mode developed through evolution and depends onto fat content for survival. Research suggest that the production of thyroid hormones can be negatively affected by repeated bouts of dieti The above two factors can be compromised by psychological compulsions (eating disorders such as exercise bulimia, anorexia, and other bulimias), misinformation, a lack of organization, or a lack of motivation. These all lead to a decreased state of health.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness can occur after any exercise, particularly if the body is in an unconditioned state relative to that exercise and the exercise involves repetitive eccentric contractions.
- Main article: Hygiene
Hygiene is the practice of keeping the body clean to prevent infection and illness, and the avoidance of contact with infectious agents. Hygiene practices include bathing, brushing and flossing teeth, washing hands especially before eating, washing food before it is eaten, sterilizing food preparation utensiles and surfaces before and after preparing meals, and many others.
- Main article: Stress management
Prolonged psychological stress may negatively impact health, such as by weakening the immune system. See negative effects of the fight-or-flight response. Stress management is the application of methods to either reduce stress or increase tolerance to stress. Certain nootropics do both. Exercising to improve physical fitness, especially cardiovascular fitness, boosts the immune system and increases stress tolerance. Relaxation techniques are physical methods used to relieve stress. Examples include sexual intercourse, progressive relaxation, and fractional relaxation. Psychological methods include cognitive therapy, meditation, and positive thinking which work by reducing response to stress. Improving relevant skills and abilities builds confidence, which also reduces the stress reaction to situations where those skills are applicable. Reducing uncertainty, by increasing knowledge and experience related to stress-causing situations, has the same effect. Learning to cope with problems better, such as improving problem solving and time management skills, may also reduce stressful reaction to problems. Repeatedly facing an object of one's fears may also desensitize the fight-or-flight response with respect to that stimulus -- e.g., facing bullies may reduce fear of bullies.
Health care is the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well being through the services offered by the medical, nursing, and allied health professions. According to the World Health Organisation, health care embraces all the goods and services designed to promote health, including “preventive, curative and palliative interventions, whether directed to individuals or to populations”. The organized provision of such services may constitute a health care system. This can include a specific governmental organization such as the National Health Service in the UK, or a cooperation across the National Health Service and Social Services as in Shared Care.
- Main article: Natural health
In alternative medicine, natural health is an eclectic self-care system of natural therapies concerned with building and restoring health and wellness via prevention and healthy lifestyles. Natural health includes breathing Buteyko Method,diet, exercise, chiropractic, naturopathy, herbalism, natural hygiene, homeopathy, massage therapy, relaxation techniques (e.g. Yoga, Tai Chi), accupuncture, sauna, aromatherapy, ayurveda medicine, and Kneipp therapy.
Workplace wellness programs
- Main article: Workplace wellness
Workplace wellness programs are recognized by an increasingly large number of companies for their value in improving the health and well-being of their employees, and for increasing morale, loyalty, and productivity. Workplace wellness programs can include things like onsite fitness centers, health presentations, wellness newsletters, access to health coaching, tobacco cessation programs and training related to nutrition, weight and stress management. Other programs may include health risk assessments, health screenings and body mass index monitoring. Mostly overseen or not mentioned is a group of determinants of health which could be called coincidence, hazard, luck or bad luck. These factors are quite important determinants of health but difficult to calculate.
- Main article: Occupational health and safety
In addition to safety risks, many jobs also present risks of disease, illness, and other long-term health problems. Among the most common occupational diseases are various forms of pneumoconiosis, including silicosis and coal worker's pneumoconiosis (black lung disease). Asthma is another respiratory illness that many workers are vulnerable to. Workers may also be vulnerable to skin diseases, including eczema, dermatitis, urticaria, sunburn, and skin cancer. Other occupational diseases of concern include carpal tunnel syndrome and lead poisoning.
As the number of service sector jobs has risen in developed countries, more and more jobs have become sedentary, presenting a different array of health problems than those associated with manufacturing and the primary sector. Contemporary problems such as the growing rate of obesity and issues relating to stress and overwork in many countries have further complicated the interaction between work and health.
Many governments view occupational health as a social challenge and have formed public organizations to ensure the health and safety of workers. Examples of these include the British Health and Safety Executive and in the United States, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which conducts research on occupational health and safety, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which handles regulation and policy relating to worker safety and health.
Role of public health
- Main article: Public health
- See also: Global health
Public health has been described as "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals." It is concerned with threats to the overall health of a community based on population health analysis. The population in question can be as small as a handful of people or as large as all the inhabitants of several continents (for instance, in the case of a pandemic). Public health has many sub-fields, but typically includes the interdisciplinary categories of epidemiology, biostatistics and health services. Environmental health, community health, behavioral health, and occupational health are also important areas of public health.
The focus of public health interventions is to prevent and manage diseases, injuries and other health conditions through surveillance of cases and the promotion of healthy behavior, communities, and (in aspects relevant to human health) environments. Its aim is to prevent health problems from happening or re-occurring by implementing educational programs, developing policies, administering services, and conducting research. In many cases, treating a disease or controlling a pathogen can be vital to preventing it in others, such as during an outbreak. Vaccination programs and distribution of condoms to prevent the spread of communicable diseases are examples of common preventive public health measures, as are educational campaigns to promote vaccination and the use of condoms (including overcoming resistance to such).
Public health also takes various actions to limit the health disparities between different areas of the country and, in some cases, the continent or world. One issue is the access of individuals and communities to health care in terms of financial, geographical or sociocultural constraints to accessing and using services. Applications of the public health system include the areas of maternal and child health, health services administration, emergency response, and prevention and control of infectious and chronic diseases.
The great positive impact of public health programs is widely acknowledged. Due in part to the policies and actions developed through public health, the 20th century registered a decrease in the mortality rates for infants and children and a continual increase in life expectancy in most parts of the world. For example, it is estimated that life expectancy has increased for Americans by thirty years since 1900, and worldwide by six years since 1990.
Role of science in health
- Main article: Health science
Health science is the branch of science focused on health, and it includes many subdisciplines. There are two approaches to health science: the study and research of the human body and health-related issues to understand how humans (and animals) function, and the application of that knowledge to improve health and to prevent and cure diseases.
Where health knowledge comes from
Health research builds primarily on the basic sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics as well as a variety of multidisciplinary fields (for example medical sociology). Some of the other primarily research-oriented fields that make exceptionally significant contributions to health science are biochemistry, epidemiology, and genetics.
Putting health knowledge to use
Applied health sciences also endeavor to better understand health, but in addition they try to directly improve it. Some of these are: biomedical engineering, biotechnology, nursing, nutrition, pharmacology, pharmacy, public health (see below), psychology, physical therapy, and medicine. The provision of services to maintain or improve people's health is referred to as health care (see above).
- Main article: List of basic health topics
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