Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is an “uneven condition of the physical, mental and emotional well-being” of individuals and families that requires “prevention, care, and treatment” to keep it at good levels. Different definitions have been use for different purposes throughout the history of medical research and language. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on definitions developed by social scientists in their research on health and the society in which they reside.
The term “well-being” has a lot of different interpretations, but the one that best describes the concept in modern society is “expectations of health.” This definition emphasizes the need for individuals to take responsibility for their own health. It also emphasizes the need to provide access to quality health care. As stated by the World Health Organization’s Millennium Development Goals, well-being should be a primary objective for every country and society. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Illness defines well-being as, “a mental state that encompasses the full range of capacities and experiences pertaining to physical, psychological, social and emotional well-being.”
Social determinants also play an important role in maintaining the health of individuals and families. These determinants are typically built into the social structure, creating differences in people’s health through time and across cultures. These differences are made because of differences in social structures and conditions within societies. These differences are typically developed through the process of social construction, which is the process of determining which traits or characteristics are “anti-social,” and which are “pro-social,” and then conditioning individuals to live in specific environments based on their individual contributions to the social construction of that environment.
In most developing countries, health equity refers to differences in quality of life, rather than medical advancements. Although some advancements in treatment have been made, communities are often left suffering from the consequences of previous decisions made by public health authorities and health care providers. By participating in a well-informed dialogue about health risks and the ways these risk management strategies can be modified, communities can work to eliminate social determinants of health through dialogue. Through engaging in a public health dialogue with other stakeholders, such as community partners, the needs and desires of the diverse population within the community can be addressed.
Health promotion and health equity are closely intertwined. Health promotion is the process of making the population aware of the value of good health and healthy practices. Health promotion is a broad term that includes the elements of equity and health promotion. Health promotion involves drawing attention to the experiences of the disadvantaged and addressing the social and environmental gaps that have affected the health of the poor and the difference that can be made in treatment. The planning phase of the program focuses on identifying current problems and gaps that need to be addressed.
Health promotion and equity work hand in hand. Equity refers to differences in quality of life or the opportunity to participate in the same practices as other people with similar characteristics. Public health is designed to prevent health inequities by addressing the social determinants of health. The planning phase of a public health program considers what changes will have the greatest impact on reducing health disparities.