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The Philosophy of Health : Redefined

What is health? Whether it is a state of the body or the mind or the both? The World Health Organisation(WHO) (2010) suggested that health is ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.’ There are several views recorded about the definition of health. According to Naturalistic views, ‘health is a physical, natural, biological or physiological processes’ that ‘are tangible, observable, and measurable with modern technology.’ While Holistic views argue that health is ‘a value laden phenomena (i.e. vital goals, meaning, and purpose)’ played a central role in population health. Further, the Bio-statistical Theory of Health (BST) ‘posits that a person is healthy if and only if, all natural organs function normally given a statistically normal environment’ On the other hand, the Holistic Theory of Health (HTH) ‘posits that a person is healthy, if and only if(given standard circumstances) he/she has the ability to attain their vital goals.’ Therefore, according to the BST disease is the internal state of impairment to the normal functioning of organs. But the HTH states that ‘an organ dysfunction is a disease if and only if the organ’s process reduces the person’s ability to pursue goals or life-purpose. ‘In BST health is the absence of disease; and in THT, health is not the absence of biological disease, but is the whole person’s ability to function in relation to vital goals.’ Population health risk behaviors are unique determinants of population health.

The corona virus pandemic has been disrupted all conceptions about population health and no theory is suited to consider what is public health and what would be the determinants for well-being of individuals? The overall population health has been waiting for a redefinition.

The purpose of health (the attainment of the vital goal of life) has been threatened due to this pandemic. People of each and every corner are witnessing this situation as silent spectators. The mental state of an individual has been adversely affected due to the threat of fear and terror of infection of virus and ultimately infected helpless death without care and treatment. The functioning of ‘self’ disrupts the functioning of the society due to dysfunctional social conditions and psychological and behavioural dysfunctions of individuals. Gradually, it has been impacted on the social system to maintain functions at the level of the society. It is evident when one’s habitual life functions, one’s healthy habits and one’s lifestyle are no longer functioned freely, and it creates vulnerability in the society. The basic human rights,  i.e. right to life has been disrupted due to this pandemic. It changes population-wide behaviours – social behaviours(communication and co-operation), economic behaviours (obstacle in goods and resources). Unfortunately, this condition makes society vulnerable to social/civil unrest. It has been observed that this pandemic makes life fragile and life is disorganized due to absence of exposure to the present changing conditions of the pandemic.

‘Life can also become a mental and emotional burden if one spends all his/her time worrying about the unpredictable future. And the whole future lies in uncertainty.’ Health is no more protecting mental well-being of an individual.  The philosophy of health would be redefined overtime during the pandemic and the aftermath.

Harasankar Adhikari

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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Written by Harasankar

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