Article

Definition of Health

Lawrence W. Green

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online February 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0132
Definition of Health

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The definition of health has evolved with the changing conditions of societies and with the changing technologies for identifying abnormalities at finer tissue and molecular levels and at earlier stages of disease. The drift of redefinitions has tended to encompass health problem conditions that were previously considered within the range of normality or at least outside the realm of medicine, sickness, and health. Some refer to these drifts in the definition of health as the medicalization of everything organic and emotional that bothers people; some worry that societies are letting technology define health for them. For public health, the efforts to track changes in scientific, professional, and popular definitions of health serve to set priorities on appropriate measurement, surveillance, and evaluation of programs and policies to improve population health. Measuring the health of populations requires the consistent collection of data on large numbers of people, and surveillance systems provide public health with consistency of measurement of health over time. This enables public health to monitor trends in population health, to detect outbreaks of ill health, to trace causes or sources of such outbreaks or epidemics, and to evaluate the progress and achievements of programs and policies directed at protecting or promoting health. Changes in the implicit or explicit definition of health complicate these needs for consistency of measurement over time.

Article.  3801 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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