What is the Definition of Health and Illness

What is the Definition of Health and Illness?

The concepts of health and illness have interested the minds of since time began. In common parlance, health implies absence of disease. This definition, though seems to be quite simple, in reality is not so. It must be clear that definition of health cannot be arrived at unless one has a complete understanding of what well-being actually means? The meaning of the word “health” encompasses these scenarios also, as in many other situations.
Health and illness have varied over time, with the earliest of human cultures describing health as an aspect of a good life that could be attained only through living virtuously. Later civilizations recognized that there were factors beyond human control that influenced health, and moral intuitions shifted the locus of responsibility for healthy living from the individual to the society or cosmos. Ancient knowledge also embraced complexity, with early Buddhist and Ayurvedic texts describing a multifaceted construct in which elements of physical, mental, and social well-being were required for balance. Over many centuries this wholistic understanding was incrementally supplanted by a series of reductionist conceptions (from humoral physiology to germ theory) that placed primacy once again on defining good health very narrowly as the absence of suffering, disease, or defect.
Historical Perspectives on Health and Illness

Ancient and Traditional Views
In the earliest known civilizations, health and illness were believed to be caused by supernatural forces and spirits. In ancient Egypt, for example, health was seen as the state of a person’s balance with the divine; illness was thought to result from either displeasure on the part of the gods or an intrusion by evil spirits. As a result, healing practices consisted of a combination of ritual, prayer, and the use of natural (mainly plant) remedies. The traditional medicine of ancient China was also based on an inherent belief in yin-yang forces (i.e., forces that work together to form a complete system) and in harmony between humans and nature. In this view, illness represented a state of imbalance between humans and their environment—imbalance being understood as an excess or lack of yin or yang energy within the body’s organs. Traditional Chinese healing strategies include acupuncture (the placement of needles at designated points on the body), herbal medicine (the use of plants as therapeutic tools), tai chi (a gentle form of exercise), and qigong (a complex system of breathing control exercises).

The Greeks took a more methodical look at health and sickness, The classical definition of health-proposed by the “father” of modern medicine Hippocrates -was that it was a balance/harmony between four bodily humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Disease was understood as an imbalance of this humors… and treatments thus focused on restoring balance through y diet, exercise or changes in the way we live. Western Medicine from the Middle Ages to Early-Modern times was dominated by this humoral theory.

COBALT HOUSE.Ashbrook Medieval and Renaissance Understanding

The dominance of religion in health and illness persisted through the medieval period. Europe – Illness was often seen as a punishment for sin or test of faith. Monasterial communities provided much of the care for people with illnesses, as religious and medical knowledge merged. Meanwhile in the Islamic world, classical Western medical texts were translated into Arabic, and many were expanded upon by both Eastern scholars during the Islamic Golden Age. Those who designed the treatment of health and disease, including Avicenna (Ibn Sina); teachers in observation accompanied by systematic experiment.

This changed when the Renaissance opened up an intrigue with science and all aspects of the human body. Anatomical studies, by the likes of pioneers such as Andreas Vesalius stepped on over held beliefs and provided a substantial improvement in human physiology. Development of printing press helped in spread of medical knowledge leading to standardisation or lack thereof in the practice. The movement toward direct observation and scientific inquiry gave rise to the biological model of health, which is currently in force within biomedicine.

Modern Medical Model

The modern medical model, named after the 19 th and 20 th century is based on biological or physical aspects of health and diseases. According to this model, health equals the universal requirements of life minus absent disease or abnormality and illness equates a failure in some normal biological function. Progress in microbiology, pathology and medical technology has made it possible to diagnose diseases fairly accurately. Occupations to manage these and improve quality of life have been revolutionized with the advent of antibiotics, vaccines, surgical procedures.

The concept of health and illness in the biomedical field is mainly about the physiological aspects of the body. Health is when the systems, organs and cells are working properly with a focus on maintaining internal balance despite external fluctuations. Vital signs including pulse rate, blood pressure and temperature as well as lab tests and imaging results are used to indicate ones state of health.

According to biological abnormalities, illness can be defined. Reasons for diseases range from their causes to mechanisms, symptoms and signs. For example, infectious ailments arise from pathogens like viruses or bacteria while genetic disorders start by DNA mutations. Chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension implies persistent interruptions in processes that necessitate long-term management.

Pathology and Disease:

Pathology, the study of disease is a central component of the medical model. Pathologists take tissues samples, fluids from the body and organs to identify these diseases associated with structural or functional changes. This information is important for conditions diagnosis determining their severity and also guiding treatment. There have been several developments in pathology that have led to identification of various disease mechanisms ranging from cellular as well as molecular abnormalities through systemic dysfunctions.

In the biomedical model, therapy aims at rectifying or mitigating these pathological changes. Medications, surgeries, lifestyle adjustments, and preventive measures are some examples of therapeutic interventions that can be employed. The aim is to reinstate normal functioning; eliminate discomforts and avoid any complications. These procedures are evaluated by their clinical outcomes such as reduction of symptoms; remission of illness and improvement of the quality of life.


Health and sickness definitions have assorted facets that keep changing. These concepts’ understanding ranges from history to contemporary biomedical models, holistic views in medicine, global perspectives, biological orientations, psychological perspectives, social aspects as well as cultural elements. One needs to recognize these connections between the factors in order to develop a comprehensive and inclusive way of looking at health and wellbeing.

The development of technology for example telemedicine and digital healthcare is transforming the way medical care is provided hence making people start taking charge of their own health. By integrating these solutions together with attention to disease prevention efforts as well as social determinants; there is potential for improved health outcomes among populations experiencing disparities.

The future understanding of health and Illness will likely change further influenced by new researches, technological strides made and evolving societal perspectives. With an all-rounded approach such as this one we can achieve greater feats in health promotion while at the same time addressing complexities tied up with illness- that which would develop better societies for everyone’s sake.

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