The definition of health published by the WHO in the 1950s was a clarion call for international action. Life expectancy worldwide was only 48 years for men and 53 years for women. Diabetic and infectious diseases, such as polio and diphtheria, were widespread, and infant mortality was a major cause of low life expectancy. In addition, the definition of health has changed significantly over the last half century, with chronic diseases now among the leading causes of death. Heart disease, cancer, and stroke were the three top killers in mid-century. Today, the definition of health is more encompassing and includes all aspects of our health and well-being, from our genetic make-up to our physical appearance.
According to the World Health Organization, “Health” is complete physical, mental, and social well-being. Healthy living can be promoted by preventing or limiting the occurrence of unhealthy behaviors and situations. While some factors are purely personal, others are structural. For example, diet, exercise, and the environment all affect health. Health is a human right. In Canada, the definition of health emphasizes participation in society and is a fundamental right for everyone.
Various measures are used to determine the state of health of an individual. Life expectancy is the most commonly used, as is the mortality rate. In addition to life expectancy, a person’s health can be assessed by the number of diseases they have and the likelihood of imminent onset of disease. In addition to these, an examination may include a variety of tests. Some tests are more descriptive than quantitative, and they may indicate the presence of disease in someone who looks otherwise healthy.