The meaning of health has evolved over time

Aligned with the biomedical viewpoint, initial definitions of health centered on the idea of the body’s capacity for proper functioning. Health was regarded as a state of typical function, occasionally susceptible to disruption by diseases.

A sample definition of health fitting this perspective is: “a state characterized by anatomical, physiological, and psychological soundness; the capacity to fulfill personally valued roles in family, work, and the community; the ability to cope with physical, biological, psychological, and social stressors.”

In 1948, marking a significant departure from prior definitions, the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced a new perspective on health, emphasizing a broader concept. This definition associated health with overall well-being, encompassing “physical, mental, and social well-being,” rather than merely the absence of disease and infirmity.

While some hailed this definition as innovative, it also faced criticism for its perceived vagueness, overly broad scope, and the challenge of measuring its components.

For an extended period, it was considered an unattainable ideal, and most conversations about health reverted to the pragmatic framework of the biomedical model.

In the same way that the perception of disease shifted from being considered a static state to a dynamic process, a similar transformation occurred in the understanding of health. Once more, the WHO took a central role in promoting the development of the health promotion movement during the 1980s.

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This introduced a fresh perspective on health, no longer as a static state but rather in dynamic terms characterized by resilience, essentially as “a resource for living.” In 1984, the WHO revised the definition of health, defining 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 daily living, not the sole purpose of life; it’s a positive concept that underscores social and personal resources alongside physical capabilities.

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