Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a state of full physical, emotional and social well being and not just the absence of illness and infirmity. Over time a wide variety of definitions for health have been in use. Some have suggested that health is the sum of the human potential, others the quality of life attained, still others consider health the result of favorable surroundings and interactions with peers or other humans. Health may be perceived as the ability to enjoy life to its fullest; to be active and engage in the community; having social relationships and some even think that a person’s health is determined genetically and through biological make up. However whatever definition you choose to use to describe your own level of health, it is important to understand that “health” is a concept that covers a great spectrum of issues and is very personal to each individual.
A central aspect of the definition of health is the belief that it is a process which promotes and helps maintain an individual’s well-being. According to the World Health Organization there are four main drivers of well-being: physical activities and environments, self-care, social determinants such as availability of education and resources, and perceived benefits and limitations of health care systems and interventions. These aspects are related to structural barriers to health care such as poverty, discrimination and limited access to health care services. The belief is that health can only be maintained if individuals are in control of their own lives and are capable of managing their health, relationships and finances. In other words, they must become competent self-carers.
A major challenge for developing countries is that they face many social determinants of health and are not familiar with the concepts of general health care and its relation to their overall health and well-being. This is a critical deficiency that needs to be addressed by health care professionals and practitioners of indigenous peoples, who have been experiencing health problems for thousands of years. Health education needs to include the promotion of healthy self-care, good nutrition, physical activity, and active participation in community health management. To achieve this, research efforts must be targeted at building on the foundations of current methods of community health management such as community prevention and public health, promoting family health and community care, and empowering women.