Understanding the Meaning of Health - An Enabler to Help Us Take Charge of Our Own Health

Optimizing our health, vitality and wellness starts with understanding the meaning of health. I tried to shed light on understanding the meaning of health in one of my previous post on this blog, entitled “Understanding Health Can Help Us Keep/Maintain It”, by use of definitions from various human health authorities. For many people, it is often very difficult  to draw a line that differentiates what entails the individual/public health and medicine practices, especially as it relates to stakeholders in these two disciplines and/or practices. The definition of medicine was therefore also provided in the previous post.   

A further emphasis on the importance of defining a word for a better understanding of its meaning that augments the explanation given in the previous post was provided by  Nordenfelt (1995) as follows: “According to Aristotelian philosophy, defining is the process by which the "essence" of things is revealed. The essence of an object consisted of those of its properties in virtue of which the object belonged to a particular species. The essence of man, for instance, was the property of being a rational animal. To define the species of man, then, was tantamount to presenting this property. According to Aristotle all things in the world - not just biological creatures - belong to species; and all species have their essences. Therefore, in general, the process of definition consisted in characterizing the essence of things. It is characteristic of this view that defining is directed towards the world, to nature itself. Aristotle considers it possible to inspect nature,"find" the essences of things, and, on this basis, to formulate definitions. Such a view of definition is often called a realist view.

The outstanding benchmarks that help us to understanding the meaning of health as an enabler to help us take charge of our own health can be depicted from a comparative  perspective of the attributes of the individual/public health practices and the medical practices as shown in the table below.

Major Differentiating Characteristics
Health, Personal/Public Health Practices and /or ServicesMedicine, Medical Practices and/or Services
Main PurposeHealth Maintenance, Health Protection and Health PromotionDisease Diagnosis, Disease Treatment and Disease Prevention (Immunization)
Main Stakeholders

Exceptional Stakeholders
Health Services Consumers (Individual , communities, population) levels; Various Health Care Professionals (Natural health practitioners, Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaches, etc.)The Patient; Physicians and other Allied Medical Professionals
Alternative Medicine Practitioners such as Naturopathic Doctors, Functional Medicine Doctors, Nutritional Medicine Doctors, etc: Involved in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention using natural health approaches (nutrition, herbs, massage, etc.).
Level of Stakeholder InvolvementHealth Services Consumers actively involved in taking care of their health in total (take charge) or partially, depending on the level of health literacy.
Health Care Professionals: Involvement  varies depending on consumer needs, and includes teaching consumers on how to stay healthy, and how to take care of their own health.
Patients: Passive involvement in their in restoring their health. Seek help from professional to get rid of their illness. Take and apply instructions on getting rid of their illnesses, or preventive immunization programmes.
Medical Care Providers: The sole actors - Investigate patient health problem (disease - mainly based on symptoms) and dictate intervention measures (mainly getting rid of the symptoms, and often not necessarily the underlying cause).

Understanding health. Your medical care provider is not the same as your health care provider. Taking charge of your own health made easy!

Happy Reading!


Nordenfelt, L. (1995). ON THE NATURE OF HEALTH. An Action-Theoretic Approach
Second Revised and Enlarged Edition.


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