Junior Students (Age 18–19)
■ A system involving all subsystems of one’s body that constantly works on keeping one in good physical and mental condition
Senior Students (Age 20–21)
■ Ability to function in activities of daily living to optimal capacity without requiring medical attention
■ Mental and physical wellness ■ The state of physical, mental, and emotional well-being
Graduate Students (Age 301/2)
■ Ability to cope with stressors; absence of pain—mental and physical ■ State of optimal well-being, both physical and emotional ■ State of well-being that is free from physical and mental distress; I can
also include in this social well-being, even though this may be idealistic ■ Not only the absence of disease but a state of balance or equilibrium of
physical, emotional, and spiritual states of well-being
It appears that the definition becomes more abstract and technical as the student advances in the educational program. The terms explaining health take on a more abstract and scientific character with each year of removal from the lay mode of thinking. Can these layers of jargon be removed, and can we help ourselves once again to view heath in a more tangible manner?
In further probing this question, let us think back to the way we per- ceived health before our entrance into the educational program. I believe that the farther back we can go in our memory of earlier concepts of health, the better. Again, the question “What is health?” is asked over and over. Initially, the responses continue to include such terms and phrases as “homeostasis,” “freedom from disease,” or “frame of mind.” Slowly, and with considerable prodding, we are able to recall earlier perceptions of health. Once again, health becomes a personal, experiential concept, and the relation of health to being returns. The fragility and instability of this concept also are recognized as health gradually acquires meaning in relation to the term being and is seen in a positive light and not as “the absence of disease.”
This process of unlocking a perception of a concept takes a considerable amount of time and patience. It also engenders dismay that briefly turns to anger and resentment. You may question why the definitions acquired and mastered in the learning process are now being challenged and torn apart. The feeling may be that of taking a giant step backward in a quest for new terminol- ogy and new knowledge.
With this unlocking process, however, we are able to perceive the concept of health in the way that a vast number of health care consumers may perceive it.
Health and Illness ■ 67
The following illustrates the transition that the concept passed through in an unlocking process from the WHO definition to the realm of the health care consumer.
■ Feeling of well-being, no illness ■ Homeostasis ■ Complete physical, mental, and social well-being
■ Frame of mind ■ Subjective state of psychosocial well-being ■ Ability to perform activities of daily living
Health becomes tangible; the description is illustrated by using qualities that can be seen, felt, or touched.
■ Shiny hair ■ Warm, smooth, glossy skin ■ Clear eyes ■ Shiny teeth ■ Being alert ■ Being happy ■ Harmony between body and mind
Even this itemized description does not completely answer the question “What is health?” The words are once again subjected to the question “What does that mean?” and once again the terms are stripped down, and a paradox begins to emerge. For example, shiny hair may, in fact, be present in an ill person or in a person whose hair has not been washed for a long time, and a healthy person may not always have clean, well-groomed, lustrous hair. It becomes clear that, no matter how much we go around in a circle in an attempt to define health, the terms and meanings attributed to the state can be challenged. As a result of this prolonged discussion, we never really come to an acceptable definition of health, yet, by going through the intense unlocking process, we are able, finally, to understand the ambiguity that surrounds the word. We are, accordingly, less likely to view as deviant those people whose beliefs and practices concerning their own health and health care differ from ours.