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For the science of human and animal health, see Health science.

Defined negatively, health is the absence of illness, functionally, as the ability to cope with everyday activities, or positively, as fitness and well-being. In any organism, health is a form of homeostasis. This is a state of balance, with inputs and outputs of energy and matter in equilibrium (allowing for growth). Health also implies good prospects for continued survival. In sentient creatures such as humans, health is a broader concept.

Many definitions of health have been offered from time to time. Webster's Dictionary defines health as "the condition of being sound in body, mind or spirit, especially freedom from physical disease or pain". The Oxford English Dictionary defines health as "soundness of body or mind; that condition in which its functions are duly and efficiently discharged". Dubos (1968) defined health as " a modus vivendi enabling imperfect men to achieve a rewarding and not too painful existance while they cope wiht an imperfect world".

However, the most widely accepted definition is that of the the World Health Organization Constitution. It states that health is "not merely the absence of disease and infirmity but a state of optimal physical, mental and social well being" (World Health Organization, 1946). In more recent years, this statement has been amplified to include the ability to lead a "socially and economically productive life". The WHO definition is not without criticism, mainly that it is too broad. Some argue that health cannot be defined as a state at all, but must be seen as a process of continuous adjustment to the changing demands of living and of the changing meanings we give to life. It is a dynamic concept. the WHO definition is therefore considered by many as an idealistic goal rather than a realistic proposition. Using the WHO definition classifies 70-95% of people as unhealthy. In spite of the above limitations, the concept of health as defined by WHO is broad and positive in its implications. It sets out a high standard for positive health. It represents the overall goal nations should strive to reach.

The most solid aspects of wellness that fit firmly in the realm of medicine are the environmental health, nutrition, disease prevention, and public health matters that can be investigated and assist in measuring well-being.

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Notes and references

  • World Health Organization, Constitution, World Health Organization, Geneva, 1946. Available online at Last Accessed October 24, 2005.
  • WHO (1979)Health for All, Sr. Nos. 1, 2
  • Dubos, R. (1965). Man Adapting, New Haven, Yale Univ. Press
  • Park, K. (1997). Park's TB of Preventive & Social Medicine, Banarsidas Bhanot Publishers, Jabalpur, India

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