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Public Health and Mental Health Care – Better Together

We hear so much about health these days that it is easy to get confused. There are so many definitions out there that it can be difficult to know what is meant when someone uses the term. What exactly is health? The dictionary definition is “the condition of being fit and healthy; a complete state.”

Health, from the World Health Organization, is “the state of complete mental and physical health and not just the absence of illness and infirmity”. A wide variety of other definitions have also been used over the years. The United States Department of Health and Human Services defines “health” as “the ability to carry out the basic functions of life: breathing, seeing, thinking, feeling, and self care.” In addition, the WHO notes that “being healthy includes having reasonable knowledge about nutrition, healthy practices, active entertainment, personal hygiene, and recreational activities.”

It’s easy to forget that the United States has struggled with defining and combating many of the world’s health disparities. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, “The mental health and wellness of all residents should be at the forefront of every American’s policy agendas.” This includes funding in public health and medical research. One example is the Center for Disease Control’s mandate for all Americans to receive a pandemic preparedness kit within 90 days of the first case of a new strain of flu or other virus.