1.1  Definition and concepts of health

Your job as a Health Extension Practitioner will be to prevent health problems in your community. Malaria, diarrhoeal disease, measles, tuberculosis, pneumonia, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and harmful traditional practices are among the health problems you will become familiar with in your community setting. Let’s begin with a definition of health (Box 1.1).

Box 1.1  Defining health 1

In the Oxford English Dictionary health is defined as: ‘the state of being free from sickness, injury, disease, bodily conditions; something indicating good bodily condition’.

  • Now stop for a moment and think about someone you think is healthy and someone else who you would consider to be not healthy. Look at the definition of health again. Is it similar to the things you thought about when you thought of a healthy and an unhealthy person?

  • This definition of health is a widely publicised one. But you may have thought of someone who has a disability or wondered about someone who looks OK but who you know does no exercise. Clearly health is not quite as simple as the definition implies.

The concept of health is wide and the way we define health also depends on individual perception, religious beliefs, cultural values, norms, and social class. Generally, there are two different perspectives concerning people’s own definitions of health that you as a Health Extension Practitioner will be expected to understand; a narrow perspective and a broader perspective.

Learning Outcomes for Study Session 1

1.1.1  Narrow perspectives of health