What Is Real Health?

What does is mean for your child to be 100% healthy? This is a question I like to ask my patients every day. Surprisingly, we usually get a mixed bag of answers.

For some, being healthy simply means not being sick. That is to say, having no outward symptoms of illness like coughs, sneezes, fevers, etc. For others, true health includes not only optimum physical well-being, but mental (emotional) and social well-being too.

So which is it? Is it enough to define true health as simply feeling good in the moment or could parents be missing the bigger picture of their child’s health by applying such a narrow definition?

Thankfully, we don’t have to look far for an official answer. The World Health Organization has defined health as: “… a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

That is to say, health is not merely the absence of symptoms, it is a combination of these three areas of health: physical, mental and social well-being. Simply put, health is really about how well your body functions as a whole, not necessarily how you feel.

Putting this concept of true health into practice can be summarized in one word: prevention. Families that actively practice preventative health, tend to reflect the WHO’s definition of health better than those who do not.

On the other hand, families that find themselves scrambling from one health crisis to another need to start asking themselves some hard questions: Prior to getting sick, were you doing everything possible to promote optimum health?

This would include, but is not limited to, proper nutrition, lots of physical activity, regular positive social interactions with other families and activities/games that stimulate creative thinking to name a few. These are not new concepts, but they are often ignored, especially during the holiday months.