Healthcare Series

So, What is Healthcare?: Part 1- What is Health and Disease

So, in light of the political debates and governmental changes that have affected our healthcare system over the past few decades, and most notably over the past few years, I have decided it is necessary to shed a little light on this area on the blog. Let me be quite clear when I state that I am not presenting a political position, nor do I think that it is appropriate to approach an area of education with a hidden agenda. The goal of this post series is to educate and outline the healthcare system and the current debates surrounding accessibility to healthcare and health insurance. While I am not an expert in this field, I will hyperlink reliable sources and other resources that can offer further information about the topics at hand. Please leave your political stances, charged/accusatory/emotional comments, or closed mind at the entry to the site and approach this topic with an understanding that health care will never be a topic of uniform opinion or understanding and that there is always more to learn. Regardless of the direction our country takes in regards to it’s own healthcare system in the next few years, there will always be some who are dissatisfied with the changes, and there will always be people with opinions different from your own. Here, I hope to shed light on the basics of the healthcare system with the goal of forming a ground of mutual understanding. Not everyone has to agree, but we should all be well informed.

Today, I would like to delve into the concept of “What is health and disease?”

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Therefore, being in a state of health is something above just being “not sick.” It is a well rounded concept that encompasses more than the scientific definition of a disease and includes our social situation, interactions with others, and even our perception. The various areas of health, social, mental, and physical aspects, are all linked to one another. Poor health in one area can negatively affect health outcomes in another.

Social health is the development and maintenance of supportive relationships with other people. This also includes balancing your social life with your work life and home life. Forming relationships with others includes establishing trust, support, and creating an environment that improves your self esteem and helps you try new skills. A good social network provides for emotional resilience, reduces stress, and builds empathy. These relationships can be formed with family, friends, or a romantic significant other. Signs of good social health include being yourself in all situations, being respectful and engaging with others in the community, maintaining friendships, having clear, respected boundaries with friends and family that foster support, understanding, and conversation, and having healthy conflict management that uses assertive skills, not passive or aggressive actions.

The US Department of Health and Human Services states “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” Mental health affects our perception of ourselves, others, and our environment as well as our coping mechanisms. This area of health allows us to participate in society, reach our full potential, and become productive individuals. Mental health affects children and adults alike. Approximately 20% of all children under the age of 18 have a mental disorder. Mental health and its associated diseases can be managed through the assistance of a medical professional or trained specialist in the mental health field, but it can also be assisted by your own personal habits. Things such as these include good sleep habits, regular exercise, and maintaining social interactions with others.

Physical Health is commonly called physical wellness. This is the health of the physical body, and it includes sleep, exercise and diet. Some tips to maintain physical wellness include engaging in physical activity everyday for at least 30 minutes in total, eating healthy, well balanced foods, with controlled portion sizes, and maintaining a sleep schedule and get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Most of these tips sound like common sense, but good personal health hygiene are the foundations of healthy living.

On the other hand, the definition of a disease is a bit harder to define since what we categorize as diseases has changed over time . What defines someone ill is mostly due to symptoms or a recognized deviation from the normal status quo. An infectious disease is defined as an illness caused by a microscopic pathogen that is contagious between people, and sometimes can be exchanged between humans and animals in the case of zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are spread from animals to humans through direct contact, waste, or through vectors , which are organisms that can transmit diseases between humans and animals. Examples of vectors are mosquitos, fleas, ticks, and snails. According to the WHO “Every year there are more than 1 billion cases and over 1 million deaths from vector-borne diseases.” These can include things such as malaria, Zika, and Lyme disease.

Other types of diseases include many other types of conditions. For example foodborne illnesses as I have outlined in a previous post are a type of infectious disease caused by bacteria in food. Non-communicable diseases are conditions that are not caused by infectious agents. These are often genetic abnormalities or lifestyle diseases.

While most diseases we consider are physical ailments, any area of health can be affected. This includes mental illness, which is categorized as any disorder that affects your mood, thinking, or behavior. This range of diagnoses are just as broad as the types of physical ailments identified. Additionally, this category is among one of the most changing fields in health and disease, as evident by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is in its 5th edition.

The fundamental elements of healthcare are the concepts of health and disease. The conditions categorized as abnormal and in need of medical treatment are the basis of the function of medical professionals. Although this first part of my Healthcare series may seem to only skim the surface, it is integral to have a solid understanding and foundation for us to continue to build out discussion of the healthcare system.

Parts 2, 3, 4, and 5 can be found on the blog!

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