Why good health isn’t just about medicine


Healthcare remains one of the most important considerations in the world. Everyone cares about not getting sick, making sure they’re in the best possible condition to face the world. Sick days deprive us of work, make us unable to act and stop us from doing necessary activities. But good health care isn’t merely about treatable or untreatable sickness: the scope is generally much wider. For example, hygiene and food consumption are often considered more important to health than even fitness or drugs. Experts claim that a well-run society or city, with proper services – like clean water, waste removal and so on – does more to help people’s health than anything else. That is not to discount what doctors themselves do, of course, but only highlights how health must be considered in a broader scope. This is particularly the case in light of living a green life and creating an environmentally sustainable world. All of this ties together into a network of a better future.

What makes people healthy?

When most of us think about being healthy, we think about fit people, eating salads and never being brought down by colds or other ailments. Yet, this is not a very accurate description of what health actually means. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as far more than, for example, the absence of illness.

To understand why the leading body of health in the world takes a slightly controversial view of health, it’s probably best to see it in line with that is considered “health promotion”. As they stated in the famous Ottawa Charter:

“Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. To reach a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, an individual or group must be able to identify and to realize aspirations, to satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment. Health is, therefore, seen as a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities. Therefore, health promotion is not just the responsibility of the health sector, but goes beyond healthy life-styles to well-being.”

Note that health is a “resource”, not a state of living. This is also shows how it’s not merely medical people or the health sector that should care about health promotion. The definition stresses “social” resources and this ties into society itself.

To that end, what makes people healthy are those things which promote the ability to cope in the best way possible. While it is, of course, the absence of illness, it is also about what allows people to achieve their goals with as minimal obstruction as possible.

This is why organisations from the WHO to Doctors Without Borders are all essential for health. Many people who work for MSF or WHO are not qualified as doctors, but are skilled in a range of other areas dealing with laws, society, ethics and so on. All of these tie together to promote a better world for more people – that is, better health.

How green activity promotes health

Being green is not just caring about the planet. It also means caring about individual health. For example, consider two environmentally-friendly choices of activities that are beneficial to health.

  1. Core Performance notes drinking from a BPA-free water bottle reduces plastic. But it has other benefits.

“BPA is linked to a variety of health issues including breast and prostate cancer and heart disease. This packaging additive is used in aluminum cans, water bottles, and other household items. Carry a BPA-free water bottle (we like Nalgene’s On-the-Fly bottle) with you to hydrate…”

  1. Few people like using the stairs when escalators or lifts exist. However, says Core Performance,  “two minutes of stair climbing each day can offset the pound of weight the average American adult gains each year, according to the New York City Health Department. So opt for the stairs over riding the elevator whenever possible. Skipping the elevator also saves energy.”

If this works on an individual level, it can obviously be applied on a societal level. For example, many people are concerned about using vehicles that damage the environment. Many are opting for greener cars to help offset any damage they might cause. But there’s more reason to care. Electric vehicles seem to have an advantage in terms of personal safety, as Mother Earth News notes:

“The risk of being shocked by touching your car or truck is also low in electric cars, because the electrical system “floats” in isolation from the chassis. Many electrical subsystems are designed to shut off if they detect a current path to the car’s chassis. Electric cars also have safety disconnects designed to cut power in the event of a collision, short circuit or other danger. Safety devices such as these are one reason both the Volt and the all-electric Nissan Leaf received top ratings from NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).”

This is why we must think wider when it comes to health and green activity.