Heading towards illness or wellness?

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‘Health is the greatest wealth’, it says. One would not realise the importance of being healthy until an illness knocks on the door. Many seem to be strongly concerned about only physical illnesses when it refers to health and wellness; yet, many of the global definitions say the opposite.  Health is not a state of mere absence of illness, but it consists of a number of determinants such as physical, cultural, psychosocial, financial, and spiritual aspects. As per the illness-wellness continuum, being neutral from two poles of illness and wellness does not define your level of health.

Among the models of health and wellness, the bio-medical model is one of the prominent models used worldwide. The liner relationship between pathogens and illnesses is highly stressed by the model; and breaking its causality is the objective of the model. It is obvious that how important this model can be, and how important it is to address pathogens in eliminating and reducing the intensity of illnesses.

There is another model proposed by Engel which moves beyond pathogens-illnesses relationships: this model highlights how important biological, psychological and social factors can be in determining health and wellness. The impact of mind on body and behaviour cannot be easily neglected. Being psychologically ill would result in physical ailments and deviant behavioural tendencies. There are some instances in which individuals show certain signs of physical difficulties even in the absence of biological reasons. There are somatoform disorders which are strongly caused by one’s mental state. Therefore, psychological aspect is vital in determining health and wellness.

On the other hand, most importantly the society where we live is in a strong determinant of health and wellness. A society free from insecurity, malnourishment, and financial instability always sets the background to maximise human potential and lead a joyful life. As per the famous hierarchy of needs by Abraham Maslow, it depicts how important it is for individuals to fulfil basic needs , security needs, social needs (love and belonging) and esteem needs (space to move forward) to reach higher goals in life.

 If a government is unable to prepare the setting so that individuals could fulfil these needs, there is nothing much to be said about their health and wellness. As per social psychological theories, frustrations could lead to aggression. Being frustrated due to lack of essential needs would not only have a negative impact on individuals, but also society. According to Doyal and Gough, they stress on certain intermediate needs that should be fulfilled for the betterment of individuals and society. Some of them are adequate nutritional food and water, adequate protective housing, a safe environment for working, appropriate health care, and economic security.

It’s time to re-read the wellbeing of local individuals and take necessary actions as early as possible to minimise the negative outcomes of existing social conditions. Health is not mere absence of physical illnesses.

By Dr Ashoke Priyadarshana