Let's Talk About Health

posted Nov 19, 2013, 10:50 AM by BHC Staff   [ updated Nov 19, 2013, 10:51 AM ]
By Nanette Yandell, MPH

Originally printed in The Triplicate on November 16, 2013
Source: Dahlgren G. and Whitehead M. Policies and strategies to promote social equity in health. 1991. Stockholm Institute for Future Studies
How do you define health? 
In a conversation, when someone says hey want to talk about health, what do they mean?
Health may be referred to as lack of illness, 
weight in proportion with height, going to regular doctor check-ups, eating fruits and vegetables, being happy, and many others.
Health is most often thought of as physical. However, mental health status is just as important. This means finding healthy 
ways to express your emotions, decreasing stress in your life, building relationships, and being engaged with your community. When we discuss health, are we including all of the components of a person’s well-being?

Source: Dahlgren G. and Whitehead M. Policies and strategies to 
promote social equity in health. 1991. Stockholm Institute for Future Studies

The word health can also be used in terms not related to the body, such as a healthy economy. When you know how you define health, you can begin to understand what health means to you.

The way we define health influences the way we talk and think about our health. For instance, if we tell our friends we are going to “Get Healthy”, this can mean many things. Having a shared understanding of health provides a foundation that we can use in conversations to make decisions every day regarding healthy choices.

What determines health?

Have you ever wondered why some people are healthy and others seem unhealthy? Many factors influence our health and quality of life. The context of our lives influences our health outcomes. Understanding these influences allows us to expand our dialogue on health and examine any barriers.

Our sex and age play a role in health outcomes, at different ages men and women may have different diseases (WHO, 2013 http://www.who.int/hia/evidence/doh/en/). Determinants of health mean the things that make people healthy and not healthy. Some of these elements we can change easier than others. All of them require a conversation examining what influences our health.

Individual behaviors like smoking and drug use can be changed. Our social environments such as income and education also play a role in our overall health outcomes yet they are much more difficult to change. Higher income is associated with better health. Having a higher education often contributes to better health. Investing in our community schools and encouraging college attendance may help improve our community’s health over time. As we talk about health, we can include talking about these other factors that influence health decisions and outcomes.

Our physical environment such as where we live, work, and play also influence our health. Living in a walking community where you have safe water and clean air provide benefits to our overall health. Working in a healthy environment such as a place with no-smoking policies and healthy food choices is also a positive influence on our health.

We have a role to play in the way we think and talk about health. We can start by identifying our definition of health and talking with our families, friends, and neighbors about what health means to us. By engaging in health discussions we can find ways to improve our overall community health and enjoy the benefits that exist all around us.