Health is a condition of mental, physical and emotional well being where infirmity and disease are absent. The word ‘well’ can be used three ways; in its original sense, it denotes the whole body, mind and spirit; secondly, it denotes health in relation to the physiological constitution of an individual; and thirdly, it can mean the proper functioning of the immune system in the face of allergens and stress. The first condition, health, pertains to all aspects of life where no limitations exist for an individual. There is no constraint on the individual’s eating or drinking habits, his personal lifestyle or his mode of communication. However, if there is any bodily or emotional disorder or illness, it results in a weakening of the body, a decrease in the intellectual capacity or an increase in the susceptibility to diseases. In this context, the word ‘disease’ is used when disease has a direct impact on the body and other such indirect impacts occur as a result of a healthy individual’s behaviour or state of mind.
Health can be attained through a combination of lifelong habits and healthy lifestyle choices. The first step towards maintaining good health is an assessment of your current health status. It includes an evaluation of your general physical and mental condition as a whole, and also the extent of the specific diseases like cardiovascular, renal, respiratory, neurological, skin, gastrointestinal and infectious diseases. These disorders may not necessarily be chronic diseases but the effects of them on the body over a period of time may constitute a case of chronic diseases.
Secondly, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with limitation of animal products is advisable in order to avoid chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Nutrition is primarily influenced by diet and a well-balanced meal plan provides the necessary nutrients for the entire body. It is essential for a healthy immune system, strong lungs, well developed immune, skin, digestive and excretory systems, strong bones and good blood count. The basic rule to follow in nutrition is ‘you are what you eat’. A nutritious diet ensures that you are free from communicable diseases.
Psychologically, stress is one of the most formidable challenges we face in our lives. A healthy life style, a balanced diet and good social connections are effective weapons against stress. Mental health is related to physical health. A well-balanced and stress-free mind leads to physical well-being. Stress itself is one of the major causes of premature death.
In United States, the health disparity between the rich and poor is widening with alarming rates. The escalating costs of health care in the United States are contributing factors for increasing health disparities. As a result of this situation, the health care workforce is under a huge strain with regard to its recruitment and retention, resulting in lower levels of productivity, reduced quality of care and increased health expenditures.
Although we believe that we have good health practices and a properly regulated system of regulated drugs and medical devices, the increasing population of the aged, the growing number of chronic conditions and the aging curve are putting us at greater health risks. The present trend is seeing more elderly people with mental disorders. If current trends continue, the burden on the health care workforce will only increase. To reduce health disparities, the United States must embark on an aggressive public health program including better community integration and integrated primary and secondary health care, universal health care and improved community education and prevention programs.