1.1.1  Narrow perspectives of health

People with a narrow perspective consider health as the absence of disease or disability or biological dysfunction. According to this view (or model), to call someone unhealthy or sick means there should be evidence of a particular illness (Figure 1.1). Social, emotional and psychological factors are not believed to cause unhealthy conditions. This model is narrow and limits the definition of health to the physical and physiological capabilities that are necessary to perform routine tasks.

According to this definition, the individual is healthy if all the body parts, cells, tissues and organ systems are functioning well and there is no apparent dysfunction of the body.

A laboratory technician examines cells and tissues under a microscope.
Figure 1.1  Concentrating only on cells and tissues can lead to a narrow definition of health. (Photo: I-TECH/Julia Sherburne)

Using this model people view the human body in the same terms as a computer, or mechanical device — when something is wrong you take it to experts who maintain it. Physicians, unlike behavioural experts, often focus on treatment and clinical interventions with medication rather than educational interventions to bring about behaviour change.

  • About two months ago Serena lost her six month old twins. She is grief stricken. She was always slender but now she looks very thin. She cannot sleep, she cannot eat and she doesn’t want to talk to anyone. Do you think the view of health you have just read about applies to Serena?

  • This view of health ignores many of the social and psychological causes of ill health. Serena’s grief is not an illness but it is certainly affecting her health.

In the next section we will discuss the broader perspective of health which includes other factors in addition to physical ones. In your work as a Health Extension Practitioner you will be expected to diagnose the overall social, psychological and physical factors which affect the health of your community and you will have to think about effective interventions accordingly.

1.1  Definition and concepts of health

1.1.2  Broader perspectives of health