What is Health?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines health as “the state of being free from illness or injury.”  

The constitution of The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Fiona Goodlee, editor of the British Medical Journal and the editorial staff at The Lancet have both written editorials about the evolving definition of health.  Click on the below links to read the two articles.  Read the articles with the below questions in mind.

As you progress throughout your medical student career (and beyond) we would encourage you to return to this page to reflect upon:

  • How do you currently define health?
  • How has the definition of health changed over time?
  • Does the definition of health change by perspective?  Is health defined differently in the United States that it is in other countries?
  • Do patients define health differently than their physicians?
  • Does the public health system define health differently than hospitals?