Health Status

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Find in a Library

Catalog Record


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. The WHO definition, introduced in 1947 is broad, leaving much room for discussion and interpretation. Some believe that health should be more narrowly defined providing more specific guidelines to help identify who is healthy and who is not. Others believe that the definition inspires users to explore possibilities and challenge conventional notions about health. In practice, there has been little effort to develop ways to measure health using this WHO model. On the other hand, the definition is responsible for efforts to develop better conceptualizations of health. It emphasizes that in addition to the physical dimension, there are mental and social aspects of health. This model promotes progress toward higher functioning in several domains: energy, comfort, and integration of mind, body, spirit and social interactions. Social well-being, social health, and mental health appear to be linked.

There are many different ways to measure the status of health populations. Internationally life expectancy, overall mortality rate, healthy life expectancy, and the prevalence of HIV are used to measure health status across counties. In industrialized countries, more specific measures such as disease-specific mortality, low birth-weight births, and self-rated health status are available for analyzing differences in health status. The relationship between health status measures and income and education has been documented and studied for decades. In the last 15–20 years, conceptions of health and the factors that affect health status have become more nuanced. Reports from the Whitehall study in England have led the quest to understand contributions of social determinants to health. These studies are helping to develop a better understanding of health and the factors that influence how it is maintained.



Catalog Record