How Do YOU Define Health?

How Do YOU Define Health?

You have been requested to describe the term health in your own words, and before you read further, jot down your definition of health. You may initially respond by reciting the WHO definition. What does this definition really mean? The following is a representative sample of actual responses:

1. Being able to do what I want to do. 2. Physical and psychological well-being: physical meaning that there

are no abnormal functions with the body—all systems are without those abnormal functions that would cause a problem physically— and psychological meaning that one’s mind is capable of a clear and logical thinking process and association.

3. Being able to use all of your body parts in the way that you want to—to have energy and enthusiasm.

4. Being able to perform your normal activities, such as working, without discomfort and at an optimal level.

5. The state of wellness with no physical or mental illness. 6. I would define health as an undefined term: it depends on the situa-

tions, individuals, and other things.

In the initial step of the unlocking process, it begins to become clear that no single definition fully conveys what health really is.1 We can all agree on the WHO definition, but when asked “What does that mean?” we are unable to clarify or to simplify that definition. As we begin to perceive a change in the connotation of the word, we may experience dismay, as that emotional response accompanies the breaking down of ideas. When this occurs, we begin to realize that as we were socialized into the health care provider culture by the educational process our understanding of health changed, and we moved a great distance from our older cultural understanding of the term. The follow- ing list includes the definitions of health given by students at various levels of

1The unlocking process includes those steps taken to help break down and understand the defini- tions of both terms—health and illness—in a living context. It consists of persistent questioning: What is health? No matter what the response, the question “What does that mean?” is asked. Ini- tially, this causes much confusion, but in classroom practice—as each term is written on the chalk- board and analyzed—the air clears and the process begins to make sense.

66 ■ Chapter 4

education and experience. The students ranged in age from 19-year-old college juniors to graduate students in both nursing and social work.

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