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A Discussion on the Definition of Health Promotion

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is “the state of total health: not just the absence of illness and disease but also the ability to enjoy good health.” A wide variety of definitions have been utilized over the years for different medical purposes. The dictionary definition, as you likely know, states that “health” is “exercise and healthy habit.” Another version states that health is “the sum of the elements that are necessary for the proper functioning of every system of the body concerned,” including “mind, body, and soul.” Still another definition maintains that health is “the value that individuals attribute to their own health,” which is influenced by both the person and his environment.

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One of the most commonly cited definitions in the public health arena is that of Charles Lindenheimer’s “hopefulness regarding a better future and a good life.” Although many people consider this a positive outlook, other experts point out that hope is aiverement of the soul and therefore involves faith and hope, which are contrary to public health interests. Charles Lindenheimer, considered the father of modern public health, disagreed with the optimistic definition of health, stating that hope was “an inert emotion which protects us against the disappointments of our higher emotions.”

Other definitions in the public health arena include that of the Public Health Service, which defines health promotion as “prevention of disease by the application of scientific information designed to reduce the chances of exposure to diseases of a category causing death.” This definition emphasizes the fact that prevention is better than cure. It also emphasizes the importance of preventive measures in a community, a nation or a society. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) further defines health promotion as “the development of services to improve the public’s awareness of health risks and the ability to identify and provide information on these risks.” These definitions clearly demonstrate that health promotion takes on various forms and focuses on the different aspects of a society.