Health is a condition of mental, physical and emotional well-being where infirmity and disease are absent. There are many definitions used over time for the purpose of defining health. Some of these include being content with one’s health, strength of character, power of endurance, resistance to illness, and ability to endure pain. Health is essential to life, as it encompasses everything from the physical to the spiritual state of an individual. It also includes an individual’s ability to live an active and productive life, both material and non-material.
Health is influenced by the capacity of the person to enjoy good health and live an active life. There is a delicate interplay between the physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual aspects that affect health. A strong sense of self-worth is important to the overall quality of life. A healthy perspective toward life contributes significantly to the maintenance of good health and the avoidance of serious illness and disease.
Environmental factors and physical activities influence health outcomes in distinct ways. Environmental factors refer to the context in which a person experiences his or her health. These environmental factors include a home environment, neighborhood, schools, workplaces and their surroundings. These variables affect the quality of life in distinct ways.
The determinants of health status, which can be affected by external factors, are both internal and external. Internal determinants refer to the determinants of physiological and mental health. They include genes, personality traits, physiological responses to stress, behavior and socialization. External determinants refer to the environment and lifestyle choices. Examples include physical hazards, environmental chemicals, food, and other environmental factors.
Illness and disease have many causes and effects, both internal and external. Some of these are: poor general health, low fitness levels, being overweight or obese, insufficient consumption of regular physical activity, not getting enough sleep, not eating balanced meals, consuming too much refined sugar and alcohol, being mentally stressed and unable to cope up with everyday demands, emotional stress, and physical abnormalities, such as abnormal weight gain, muscle weakness, joint pains, hair loss, and vision problems. Each of these has a different effect on a person’s overall health and can either contribute or deter from a person’s health status.
Although people from different groups suffer from health disparities, the magnitude of the problem is rising sharply, especially with the worsening global economic crisis. To address the health care and health insurance gaps between groups, policies and programs have been developed over the years. Most address health care needs of the poor and the disadvantaged. Programs designed to tackle health disparities have concentrated on issues affecting women and girls, especially at early ages. Programs also aim to increase the fitness levels of the young and keep them fit. However, there has been minimal progress in addressing the larger gaps between rich and poor and even those who fall within both economic groups.