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Health Is For Us, Not You.

December 5, 2015

Hey everyone, I’m back! It has been awhile since I posted here. Aside from the inescapable fact that life goes on while I’m trying to live my life, one of the the reasons I haven’t written is that nothing health-care related has outraged me recently.  And I definitely write better when agitated about something.  Of course, I have plenty of disgust for much of what is going on in the world.  Guns?  Outraged.  Syrian refugees?  Outraged.  ISIS.  Outraged.  Donald Trump?  Please.  Healthcare?  Meh.

Except for one thing.  Health is more than doctor visits and pharmaceuticals.  One could most definitely say that a person killed by a gun is not healthy.  But how about a Syrian refugee?  Is she really healthy?  Or the ISIS fighter. Is he healthy?

Back in 1948 the World Health Organization defined health in this way: (

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being – not merely the absence of disease or infirmity

And here’s the CDC in 2000:(

Some of the variables generally considered to be the domain of health include premature mortality and life expectancy, various symptoms and physiological states, physical functions, emotional and cognitive functions, and perceptions about present and future health.

Everything that involves humans is health-related.  But that’s too big, right?  Health as the sum of a person’s well-being in all parts of life.  We have trouble dealing with such a broad definition.  So we restrict it.  We decide that, well, health is the sum of a white person’s well-being, or an American’s well-being, or the well-being of a certain demographic group.  And we further restrict ourselves to things we can easily define and treat: high blood pressure, diabetes.

The mass shooters in California, for instance.  Those two were employed, legal, presumably tax-paying citizens with, apparently, no chronic health problems.  Healthy.

The Syrian refugees.  If you believe, as I do, that the refugees are upstanding citizens of what used to be a functioning society, and assuming, for the sake of argument, that they are physically healthy (or were), they would be healthy except for the part about social well-being.  Specifically, they are homeless and stateless.  But they are foreign, unknown, part of a demographic group with some very violent outliers, so their social ill-health is not our concern.

ISIS fighters.  Generally young and healthy, no symptoms of illness, normal physical functioning, no diagnosable mental or emotional problems. (Radicalization is a social process, not a mental disease.)  They are not homeless or stateless. Healthy.  Except for being surrounded by a society that can’t provide jobs or positively directed meaningful work, being constantly in contact with violence and being fed a steady diet of extremist rhetoric.  That part in the CDC definition of health about perceptions of present and future health?  Yeah, they definitely have a problem there. They are not so healthy, maybe, but they are also foreign and plus they kill people, so their health is not our concern either.

Until it is.


From → Healthcare

  1. Jen permalink

    Powerful thoughts and concerning truths. Made me search for our Australian comparative. The Australian Government Department of Health and Aging has concluded that ”Australia’s health outcomes are good by International standards” …well no real surprises there, given this vast wealthy and fairly (border) isolated country of ours, fairly low benchmark it seems. But the second conclusion ”Prevention programs have some success and remaining challenges” When I think about perceptions of present and future health, something is really missing in how we are tackling health literacy generally. Don’t get me started on the corporatisation of food and I do understand we have a big world to feed. The sum of health truly is inclusive of social, political, cultural, religious and educational elements…

  2. Phillip Gale permalink

    Perception of future health is also age related. I noted that you referred to the ISIS fighters as young and healthy. As a teenager I thought of myself as immortal and my expectation of good health was the expected norm baring accidents. At 75 my expectations are much reduced and find each year my new normal expectations reduced. The World Health Organization’s definition speaks of being contented no matter what our physical, emotional, social, financial, or any other parameter of life you can describe, is. The requirements for contentment change with time and experience.

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