Lesson 2: Health, Disease, and Prevention
HEALTH, DISEASE, AND PREVENTION
If we look at the ways in which health and disease are defined, we can see more clearly
why active prevention programs are such an important goal for workplace health and safety.
In 1947, the World Health Organization defined health as “ physical, mental and social
well – being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” This definition, now used
by governmental bodies worldwide, brings to light many components to be considered in
an assessment of personal wellness and illness. The average person, however, defines his or
her personal health subjectively, thinking simply about whether he or she feels well or ill,
and makes little effort to determine the multitude of components influencing it. Thus the
average person also gives little consideration to the likelihood that chronic disease will
affect his or her health because most chronic diseases have a little recognizable effect on
health until they are somewhat advanced.
Turnock (2009) argues that many individuals seem unaware of the fact that wellness
can be negatively affected by their own dangerous, high – risk health behaviors. He
also points out that the average American still looks at wellness as a function of the length
of life and not the quality of life. Many individuals believe that as one age one must learn
to adapt to poor health as an inevitable consequence of the aging process. They usually
are not aware that chronic diseases can be developing while they feel well and can be
the cause of long – term illness and premature death. Similarly, McKenzie et al. (2005)
point out that illness is often a personal determination of a deviation from one ’ s personal
definition of a good state of health. Individuals determine that they are ill because
of a temporary or permanent change in their state of health.
At some point, the individual who feels ill may seek help from a health professional,
who will usually define and name the illness. The individual with a well – defined
illness now has a professionally defined disease. The physician can now recommend a
course of treatment, which may bring the ill person back to wellness. Unfortunately, it
usually costs a great deal more for the cure than it would have cost to prevent the
occurrence of illness in the first place.