Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition characterized by a level of healthy living that reduces the risk for death or other adverse medical conditions and enhances the quality of life. A wide variety of definitions have also been applied to health over time. In its most broad sense, health is regarded as the ability to survive and perform normally in the face of threatening physical factors or circumstances. It is acknowledged that being in good health is of paramount important for people to lead productive and satisfying lives. A healthy life has become synonymous with a long life and good health status.
The process of defining health has become more complex as the public has become more aware of their weight, height, diet, physical activity levels and other factors that affect their health. These indicators are used by healthcare professionals to identify those who require greater attention to improving their health, as well as those at risk of developing diseases or illnesses that could negatively impact their lifestyles and living standards. It is important to note that a person’s level of well-being is not necessarily equated to their level of health but rather their degree of fitness and physical functioning.
In order to reduce the levels of health care disparities experienced by people of differing socio-economic statuses, it is essential to address the issues related to social determinants of health and physical environments that can exacerbate or prolong existing health differences. An important example of these determinants is found in the gender composition of an individual. Men are now considered to be more health conscious and proactive than ever before and are more likely to consult with their doctors about their health concerns, if they are aware of them. However, this is not the case for women.
Women are now leading the way in the fight against social determinants of health. This has created a great opportunity for organizations to develop comprehensive action plans addressing health disparities. However, organizations must integrate the elements of an action plan into their overall health and wellness strategies, in order to be successful. For this reason, all stakeholders must be included in the planning phase of any strategic initiatives aimed at eliminating health disparities. This includes:
In addition to health policies that aim to provide appropriate access to quality health services and promote healthy life expectancy and longevity, a comprehensive wellness strategy should include an action plan on how to address social determinants of health. The action plan should also consider measures to prevent the occurrence and development of any potential illnesses or ailments associated with lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and other similar habits. These habits or lifestyles may be associated with a particular environmental setting, such as a poor environment or poor health policy. In fact, even if there is a good environment, a low level of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits can still contribute to health disparities.
One important tool in developing a health promotion strategy is the development of a conceptual framework that addresses the relationships between health and equity. Such a conceptual framework should draw on the concepts and research findings of health and disability studies, qualitative methods, qualitative study methodology and community health education. Such a framework may also incorporate the concepts of disadvantage, access, equity, and health promotion, and their intersections. The health equity conceptual framework should therefore integrate the concepts of health policy, health promotion, health equity, and health justice to form an overall holistic health policy.