Re-defining ‘Health’ : Sociology of Health & Scientific Views of Health

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What does it mean to be in good health?
Here are two scenarios:
1. A 20-year old man living currently in university with over 30K in debt, he has a close group of friends and he joins many clubs such as video game and marching band. He hasn’t done a full body-check up yet and he doesn’t take any medication.
2. A 60- year old female living with high blood pressure for the past 5 years, is currently on medication. She has a private catering business with steady income. She has a fairly active lifestyle for her age, as she does yoga and eats nutritious meals. She recently experiences aching knees and occasional breathing issues.

In fact, both individuals are considered to be in good health. Why? because there are various perspectives that you can view what ‘good health’ is.  If you look at the medical determination of health – the 20 year old male will be in good health because he doesn’t have any chronic medical issues. However, if you look at other aspects of his life such as the debt – this leads could affect his mental health and his future in being debt-free. Therefore, in terms of the financial aspect, the 60- year old female is in better health – as she has the money to help her get the health she needs.

The definition of health itself is a fascinating and complex word, that takes some good thinking to encompasses all of what health is.

According to WHO: health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Is this the best definition we could get to?

Here is Dr. Andrew Weil excellent and simple explanation of what health is:

Therefore, how should we view ‘health’? As a dynamic system of well-being that includes environmental, mental, physical, social, psychological factors and components of the standardized measure used from western medicine.

It is a double-edged sword that western medicine is viewed as one of the highest hierarchy in regards to other practices of medicine. By definition, western medicine is:

A system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. Also called allopathic medicine, biomedicine, conventional medicine, mainstream medicine, and orthodox medicine.

For science innovators, we need to acknowledge and encompass the fact that western medicine will over-look the broad perspective of health. To better understand the study of health, we need to keep an open mind of our definition of health and treatment. To be closed minded within scientific evidence and biochemical facts about disease is what separates a science educated individual from a health care educated individual.

Enough of the chit-chat, and watch this informative panel by Harvard University that explores the social-science lens of health.




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