The origin of the word health goes back to the Latin “salus” or “salvatio”, which means: “to be able to overcome an obstacle”. This meaning has evolved in our society until, in 1946, the World Health Organisation (WHO) defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity“.
It is the WHO itself which, in 1950, established that every 7 April should be celebrated as “World Health Day”. Throughout these 72 years, a multitude of issues have been given prominence, from mental health, children’s health, or oral health. It has always dealt with cross-cutting issues of great global interest that affect the entire population to a greater or lesser extent. The theme for World Health Day 2023 is “Health for all”. WHO will draw global attention to the innovations in medical care that have improved the quality of life for all people in the world.
And what is health?
Taking up the concept of health, as its definition indicates, it includes different spheres in which well-being is the pillar. The physical, mental and social spheres are equally important and a balance between them is necessary for a person to feel and consider themselves healthy. Each of these encompasses broad considerations as “proper name” entities.
Mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual is aware of his or her own capabilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”, so it is clearly an indivisible part of personal health and well-being. This is why “World Health Day” has often been dedicated to one of the pathologies that most frequently affect the population. In fact, it is so important that mental health has its own day in the calendar, specifically on 10 October. There are many pathologies that have been given visibility, one of them being depression, which took centre stage in 2017. According to WHO data, more than 300 million people in the world suffer from depression, the main cause of disability, and more than 260 million have anxiety disorders. Suffering from mental health problems can clearly limit someone’s day-to-day life and therefore end up affecting their overall health.
In addition to mental health, the definition talks about physical wellbeing. It seems obvious to relate a person’s good health to good physical health, but as mentioned above, there are other factors of well-being that are necessary to achieve full health. Being able to move freely, not suffering from pain or not having to take medication are some of the characteristics that can define “a healthy person” and to achieve this a good option is to establish habits. In the past, the slogan chosen for this day has been “Ageing and health”, because good health adds years to life.
To reach maturity in good health, good habits are essential. We are all going to age irremediably. The number of people over the age of 65 will increase from 605 million to 2 billion in half a century. The years will pass for each of us, and it is in our hands to age in a healthy way.
Establishing healthy habits such as eating right and being physically active are small, individual decisions that contribute greatly to personal development. So much so that after the success of World Health Day 2002 under the slogan “For your health, move”, it was decided that 6 April would be celebrated as World Physical Activity Day. This decision was not taken in vain as physical inactivity is one of the major risk factors for mortality worldwide and is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.
At Foyer Global Health we want to support WHO with its mission of keeping humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being. Let’s mark 7 April as an important date in the calendar as it will allow us to learn more about global health issues of general interest, but especially to reflect and be aware of those we can act on individually.
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