Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition that “is an optimum condition of total health and not just the absence of illness and disease.” Various definitions have been employed over the years for diverse purposes. The best definition, however, remains that “health” means the capacity to enjoy life fully and to contribute to one’s well being.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) defines Health as, “exceeding the quality of the care provided to you that meets the standard of care determined by your doctor.” In addition, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 states that health insurance coverage and treatment should be consistent nationwide for the same patients. This is the most recent-defined definition. According to the Commonwealth Fund’s Health Services Research Center, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has “replaced the traditional Medical Insurance Portability and Accountability Act with a comprehensive health service’s accountability bill. This new legislation provides patients more flexibility in choosing a health plan that meets their needs.” Although Pennsylvania’s Medical Insurance Portability and Accountability Act do not explicitly define health care quality, the new law does require that all health plans and services are available to patients with “medically uninsured” status.
The Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Planning and Policy addresses health care as a state of complete physical, social, and economic well-being. According to this office, “wellness should not be equated with illness, but rather should be a comprehensive approach that involves healthy behaviors, healthy diet, regular exercise, and minimal risk-taking.” In addition to requiring that health plans and services are available to all residents, the DHHS also addresses how health affects the quality of life in people of all ages, both physically and mentally.
The Center on Medicaid and the Center for Medicare Services jointly defines health policy as “an essential public policy designed to assure optimal access to healthcare services and to foster research aimed at improving health.” Health is defined as an essential public policy because all individuals’ quality of life depends on the availability of adequate healthcare services. Health policy thus includes protection against illness, injury, and accidents. According to these definitions, healthcare policy also includes prevention of communicable diseases, improvement of the overall health of the population, regulation of prices charged for healthcare services and the protection of health information. One could also include disability, child, and family services within the definitions of a health policy. Furthermore, disability aids include the provision of adapted equipment or services for disabled persons and preventive measures for diseases related to neglected mental health.
The American Psychological Association further defines health as “the quality of life that sustains a person through all stages of his or her life, and that includes psychological, social, physical, and mental aspects.” The APA further notes that “health and wellness” should not be substituted for “a sound general approach to identifying and preventing illness,” and that “a healthy public health system can promote greater efficiency in the delivery of health care and in providing optimal patient care.” A further observation from the APA states, “The goals of physical and mental wellness should be balanced,” and that mental health and substance abuse should be treated as an integrated issue. This way, people suffering from illness or injury can benefit from both health and well-being services.
Despite the fact that there has been much debate over the validity of the criteria for defining wellness, efforts to improve the quality of health and the well-being of people are still underway. As the need for wellness becomes more pressing, the debate over the validity of a person’s mental health will likely become more prominent. There will inevitably be disagreements, but it is important to remain calm and respectful in the process. If we can find a common ground, we can work toward making a difference in the world. Let’s do our part and raise the bar for the future of public mental health services.
For those who are concerned about the future of medical care, the recent developments in the pharmaceutical industry show an indication of what the future may hold. Many pharmaceutical companies have developed drugs that are highly effective in treating various illnesses. However, many of these drugs are toxic, and the side effects can often lead to other problems. There are also concerns about the growing number of deaths caused by prescription drug overdose. The recent development of pharmaceuticals has led some to predict that we may soon experience a medical care crisis as a result of the unchecked growth of medication use. The development of more effective medications will undoubtedly lead to improvements in the quality of health care, but the challenge will always be how far we can push the medical model in an effort to provide a better standard of care.
In the end, everyone has a different interpretation of what defines health. The reality is, however, that no one can simply decide what a person’s health is based on limited research and information. Rather, each individual must determine for themselves what their definition of wellness means to them and how they want to see this affect their own lives. This discussion will no doubt continue for some time, but it will no doubt prove to be a point of much debate for all of us.