The Meanings of Health and Its Promotion

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Meanings of health?
Health means different things to different people. For this reason it is very difficult to define health in a way that satisfies everyone. To an elderly person health might mean mobility; for a person with a mental illness health might mean having social contact with peers; for a young person health might equate more to physical activity or body image. People from different backgrounds might impact health as the adherence to different cultural or behavioural values, while people in isolated communities might see health as access to fresh food and health services.

Relative and Dynamic Nature of Health
Dynamic Health is the result of the continually changing process it refers to the constant fluctuations that occur in our level of health.

Relative Health refer to how we judge our health compared to other people or other points of time in our life.

Relative nature of health
Health can be viewed as relative. Relative means in relation to another period of time, in relation to your potential or in relation to others. Relative to your peers, are you healthy? Relative to your level of health five years ago, are you healthy?

Dynamic nature of health
As mentioned earlier, WHO (World Health Organisation) defines health as 'a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity'. This statement implies that a person cannot be considered healthy unless he or she has a complete state of well-being. This leads us to question whether a person is diabetic, epileptic or recovering from a heart attack, for example, can be considered healthy. Our state of health changes over time, so we can say it is dynamic.

The interactions between the dimensions
As noted earlier, health can be seen as an interaction between the dimensions of health. If the status of one dimension is compromised, the other dimensions will be affected. For instance, when we have a severe cold, we are less likely to want to interact socially with others and may feel depressed. Our impaired physical well-being affects the other dimensions of our health.

The concept of good health
It is important to understand the meanings that people associate with the concept of good health. For a child, being healthy might mean eating plenty of vegetables and participating in a variety of physical activities. For a young person, being healthy may mean training three nights a week at soccer, never getting a cold during winter and having plenty of friends. For an older person, being healthy may mean having the physical ability and motivation to complete everyday tasks and to entertain relatives who visit each week. In the past, health was equated with an absence of illness-if you were not sick, you were healthy.

Perceptions of Health
People's perceptions of health can be highly subjective. These differing perceptions have implications for the priority we give to taking action to maintain or improve our health and the type of action that is taken. Personal perceptions of health

When making judgements about our level of health and well-being our perceptions are influenced by a range of factors, including:

• Personal interpretation of health
• Environment
• Beliefs about our capacity to achieve good health
• The value we place on the importance of being healthy
• Attitudes about health conveyed by peers, family and the media
• Our past level of health
• Our behaviours and lifestyle

Perceptions of health as social constructs

We should now recognise that different people have different perceptions about what is meant by the concept of good health. So what is it that shapes our perceptions? Our views regarding what constitutes good health and who possesses it are largely influenced by the social, economic and cultural conditions of our family and the society in which we live. This is referred to as our social construct.

Social Construct of Health:
- Cultural...
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