Health is a condition where illness and disease are absent. It is associated with the mind, body and spirit and is viewed as a state of complete well being. Various definitions have been employed for such purposes over the years. In simple terms, health means “a state of proper being” and is related to the person’s inner values, attitude and behavior. In many ways, health is viewed as a spiritual and emotional state.
In the modern age, there is a tendency to reduce all conditions to one or two and to consider health as a reductionism. Consequently, a lot of people have lost the ability to connect their daily life to their deeper values. Consequently, they suffer from the consequences of their lifestyle and are unable to identify and deal with complex medical conditions that arise without easy access to modern medicine. Thus, we find people turning to the Internet for answers and solutions to many health problems as the complexity of modern life increases.
In the light of this situation, many public health professionals have questioned the validity of conventional definitions of the term ‘health’. In essence, they argue that even if the disease is part of the definition, there is no objective way to measure the presence or absence of an illness or disease. In other words, the existence and non-existence of an illness or disease can be determined based on the social environment in which it finds itself and its subjective experience. This perspective is opposed to the traditional perspective that social environments provides a rich source of information about subjective experiences and about the prevention and treatment of diseases.
A number of explanations are advanced as explanations for the increasing relevance of the Internet in the definition of health. Firstly, online sources of information provide a unique opportunity to see the impact of global issues on health through the lenses of local expertise. Secondly, online sources of information tend to provide a comprehensive view of all health-related topics, thus facilitating the search for new knowledge. Thirdly, online sources of information are usually authoritative, unlike conventional literature, which tends to be descriptive rather than explanatory. Fourthly, there is a rising trend towards self-curating, whereby individuals define and monitor their own health on their own terms and therefore contribute to the definition of health. In this context, defining health is directly linked to the contribution of personal knowledge and experience.
The definition of health has been evolving over the years, taking on different forms and adding different elements. For example, different definitions have emerged with reference to the general subject matter of disease, with reference to its definition as well as to specific medical conditions. In addition, health definitions have undergone significant changes with respect to methodology, with some referring to the improvement of the quality of health and others stressing the prevention of diseases as the ultimate aim. However, despite these important shifts, the definition of health remains largely dominated by a common factor: the role of the community in promoting health. This is perhaps seen best in the context of public health, where different groups – like organizations, communities, families and even individuals themselves – play a role in making health better, preventing diseases and ensuring that it continues to improve over time.
Health is not a single concept, but has many dimensions, which are determined by many determinants. Some of these determine the level or quality of health, others influence the preventive aspects of health and some affect the illness itself. These include the physical determinants such as age, gender and physical health. Other determinants include both age and gender, socio-economic factors such as wealth and status, personal characteristics such as culture, beliefs and attitudes, and environmental factors such as exposure to certain types of causative agents. Health is affected by a number of environmental factors, which include severity of illness, location and accessibility to treatment, availability of health services and access to health care and nutrition.