The Definition of Optimal Health
Good health is a treasure that each individual should strive to value and develop during a lifetime. As explained in the Preamble to the Constitution of the The World Health Organization, health is defined as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
An article in the “American Journal of Health Promotion” by Michael O'Donnell, a consultant and speaker in the health care industry, explains that optimal health is a balance of five areas of health. These areas are emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual and social health. The concept of optimal health focuses on mental health and healthful relationships, as well as nutrition and exercise.
Physical health encompasses the areas of fitness, nutrition and the control or abstinence of chemical abuse. Emotional health refers to your state of mind and feelings, whether it involves coping with stressful situations, frustration, disappointment or excitement. Social health involves cultivating stable relationships with friends, family members, peers and co-workers and having a sense of confidence and security within yourself. Intellectual health is exhibited by the ability to set and achieve career, educational and financial goals. Spiritual health reflects your belief or faith in something greater, or in understanding and fulfilling your purpose in life.
Levels of Health
In the “Journal of the National Medical Association,” Dr. Harold Elrick suggests that health and fitness in society exists on three levels. Level One is classified as abnormal and is characterized by poor quality of life, poor physical performance, disability and death. Level Two reflects a mediocre quality of life, mediocre physical performance, progressive loss of vigor and high risk for disease. Level Three is referred to as Euexia and represents high quality of life, high physical performance, maintenance of vigor with age and low risk of disease.
Optimal health is ideal because it reflects an overall satisfaction with one's life. Craighospital.org explains that a person who enjoys optimal health can experience a number of benefits, including the ability to adapt to and manage life experiences and challenges, developing coping strategies for stress and the ability to relate to others assertively and flexibly.
In the “American Journal of Health Promotion” O'Donnell explains that lifestyle changes can be accomplished through education, a change of behavior and creating an environment that supports sound health practices. Such efforts might include time set aside from work and school for exercise, access to health facilities, reading books and participating in activities that stimulate brain function. Other solutions might include the availability of nutritious food in cafeterias and workplaces, time provided for meditation and spiritual reflection, and hosting parties and activities where peers and coworkers can gather and build stronger friendships and connections.
Health promotion programs exist to educate people in a community, school or corporate setting concerning ways to improve the health of individuals. These programs often offer resources in primary and secondary prevention of poor health by providing resources and health examinations such as blood pressure and skin fold tests that are not otherwise accessible. They also offer incentive programs that motivate groups of people to accomplish collective goals, offer monetary and physical awards for accomplishments, and organize group competitions to improve eating, exercising and thinking habits.
- "American Journal of Health Promotion"; Definition of Health Promotion; Michael O'Donnell, MBA, MPH; 1996
- World Health Organization: Definition of Health
- "Journal of the National Medical Association"; A New Definition of Health, Harold Elrick, MD, FACP; 1980
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