My intention with this post is to get back to the basics and reflect on a fundamental concept. Health. This 5-letter word gets tossed around as if it possesses an inherent meaning. Maybe it does. Let's talk about it. Join me please!
Health. The concept is everywhere. It is the focus of a slew of popular blogs, it infiltrates social media posts and tweets, its the subject of television talk shows, talk radio, podcasts, you name it. Here at Wild River Wellness, we offer services that can bring greater, more vibrant health to you and your loved ones. What are we all talking about? What are we offering?
The crew over at Merriam Webster agrees, "health is the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially: freedom from physical disease or pain". This leaves me with some questions. What exactly do they mean by sound? What lies beyond freedom from disease? How do we know we are free of disease?
They retort, "sound means in good condition; free from injury, disease, flaw, defect or decay". Ok, so health is being pain-free, being flawless, being without defects, immune to the process of decay. Well in that case, achievement of health seems super human. Maybe health is generated from the part of us that is super human, that is divine, that precedes our form and function and yet is expressed by it? Maybe. Let's consult another source.
The folks over at the World Health Organization (WHO) go a step further. They state "health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity". In this excellent article, Machteld Huber, MD and colleagues say this isn't good enough. They propose changing the emphasis towards "the ability to adapt and self-manage in the face of social, physical, and emotional challenges". I like how this definition speaks to the process of health in relation to environment. Here, health becomes a living concept, an organic, ever-changing reality, not some five-letter word, to be conquered or forgotten, always out of reach or destined to gather dust in the land of the unattainable. Also, the relational nature of this definition of health is not so isolated and lonely.
What I would like to add to Huber's conceptual proposal above is the word unique. Health is "the ability to adapt and self-manage in the face of unique social, physical and emotional challenges". I am using unique in this context to refer to the opportunities, resources, and privileges, or lack there of, that go hand in hand with a person's in-born identity within their dominant culture. The markers of one's identity in this context may include class, race, ethnicity, sex, age, sexual-orientation, and probably some other realities I'm forgetting here. I think this is a very important contextual marker to include in the discussion of the concept of health. These markers affect the social, physical and emotional challenges one may face as well as their ability to adapt and self-manage .
To me, health is many things. Health means something different for everyone at every moment. It changes with context. I see health as the freedom to do what we dream for ourselves so we can express who we know we are. I see it as our gifts and our fullest potential expressed despite setbacks, challenges, and unexpected changes in our surrounding environment.
Honestly, what I am very much interested in is what health means to you. I want to know what your concept of health is. When you seek healthcare services what are you hoping to find, what journey do you hope to embark upon? My job as a doctor and healthcare advocate is to work with you to come up with a strategy and plan of action that helps you forever journey towards the balance and beauty that is health in your fullest, unique expression of the concept. I encourage you to consider your own needs and concepts of health when you seek healthcare in your community. I think it will better help you seek the services you need, along with better helping your healthcare practitioners serve you. Please join in this discussion so it can become a discussion! I'm hoping to learn from you, your thoughts, hopes, feelings and opinions on the concept of health.
Dr. Stephanie Mottola is a naturopathic physician passionate about health education and the freedom it affords. By focussing on and nurturing our individual health we nurture the health of our families, communities, and the planet that graces us with life.