LESSON 1: Exploring the Meaning of Good Health and Well-Being
This lesson is about trying to be as healthy as we can be and living a happy, active life. It describes the three dimensions of health - physical, mental and social - and encourages reflection and discussion about our bodies, minds and emotions. It shows how developing good habits and making good personal choices can improve our health and well-being, while poor habits can harm it. It also explains that not all factors affecting our health are under our personal control, and that efforts by both individuals and the community are necessary for achieving good health. The lesson encourages an evaluation of the basic local public services that affect people’s health.
By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:
- name and explain the three dimensions of health
- provide examples of personal choices that can improve or harm our health
- identify and explain other factors that also affect our health
Being in good health means more than just being free from illness or disease. While being physically healthy is the first step to good health, good mental health and social well-being are also necessary. In fact, health is defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This means that to be in good health, we must take care of our bodies, our minds and emotions, and we must pay attention to our life-styles and surroundings. This definition of health recognizes that every person is complex and must be valued for all of their dimensions, not just for their physical ones. For example, people with a physical disability or illness can still continue to grow and improve mentally or socially, thus maintaining a good quality of life and contributing to the family and community. We have a chance to be in the best health when we are aware of all dimensions of good health when we work toward improving ourselves in as many of them as we can.
To think about
What does being healthy mean to you?
Is it enough to just be free from illness or disease to be in good health? Why or why not?
How can people improve their physical and mental health and their social well-being?
Are you aware of how your habits and personal choices affect your health and well-being?
There are many personal choices we can make to improve our physical, mental and social well-being. What we eat, how we live and the physical and social environment in which we live and work all affect our health. Achieving and maintaining the best possible overall health and well-being requires learning how to make good personal life-style choices and continuing these good practices throughout life. This means first of all making good food choices for a healthy and nutritious diet. It also means adopting behaviours that are beneficial to health, such as practicing adequate levels of physical activity, and avoiding harmful behaviours such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases.
How we react to the challenges we face in life determines our mental health and happiness. Facing problems in a positive way, overcoming barriers, trying to make the best of a situation and seeking solutions all contribute to good mental health and well-being. The following saying suggests some positive attitudes for facing challenges and difficulties in life: “...have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the courage to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference”....
Download full Lesson1 (2,8Mb)
What do we mean by good health?
Reflect on what being healthy means to you. Write your ideas of health and well-being on a sheet of paper or on a board.
Then write out the WHO health definition: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Compare it to your responses and explore the concept of good health according to this definition. Where you able to think of responses for all three dimensions?
If working in a group or classroom setting, share your ideas and discuss.
Sound mind in sound body
Health is so important for everyone that many cultures have proverbs and sayings defining health and highlighting its physical, spiritual and mental dimensions. For example, an ancient Roman poet once wrote that to be healthy we need to have a sound mind in a sound body (“Mens sana in corpore sano”). What does this mean to you? Do you agree? How does this compare with the WHO definition?
Go to the “Proverbs and sayings about health” work sheet (512Kb) for more examples of popular proverbs and sayings. What do they mean to you? Do you agree with them?
Find and add to the list as many local proverbs, sayings, expressions relating to all dimensions of health and well-being as possible. You may also contribute some special expressions you often say or hear in your families. Compare the proverbs to the WHO health definition and identify which dimensions (our bodies, minds or emotions) are addressed in them.
Being as healthy as possible in difficult life situations
Think about how to be as healthy as possible, even when things are difficult. Consider the following questions:
- Are sick people always sad?
- Do you know someone who has a health problem and yet is happy and active in the family or the community?
- What can we learn from these people?
- Could you be happy if you had an injury, disability or illness?
- How could you make the best of this situation?
Use the “Making a contribution despite health problems” work sheet (500Kb) to research and share with others the stories of people who have made important achievements and contributions to society despite their illnesses and disabilities. Examples may include world leaders who had health disorders, composers unable to hear their music, singers unable to see their instruments, the Paralympic Games athletes, disabled painters, scientists and others.
Think and add to the list people in your own family or community who have overcome physical or mental disabilities, humble beginnings or difficult circumstances and have made a contribution to the community or have had a positive influence on others.
What personal choices affect our health?
Look at the blank work sheet “Personal choices affecting our health” (524Kb) individually or in small groups and think about the personal choices you make that can affect your health.
Name some things you can do that are healthful for each of the three dimensions and write them in the table. For example, some healthful choices may include: not smoking, being active, keeping the body clean, being relaxed, feeling good about oneself, making friends, helping others, and getting involved in the community.
Then add some behaviour choices that are harmful for the physical, mental and social dimensions. They may include: drug and alcohol abuse, eating poorly, lack of physical activity, being angry or sad, gossiping, hurting people, lying.
Now compare your ideas to the example work sheet “Personal choices affecting our health” (524Kb) and add as many suggestions as possible.
Looking at your work sheet, identify areas in which you feel you need to change or improve your behaviour in order to achieve better health. Choose one behaviour for each dimension and make an “agreement” with yourself on how you can improve.
What community services affect health?
Make a list of community services that affect our physical, mental and social health but are not always under our personal control. Compare your ideas with the example list of “Basic public services” (512Kb). Did you think of any services that are not on the list? Are there any services on the list that you didn’t think of?
Then, individually or in groups, choose one or two basic services to further explore. Using information available from newspapers, magazines, radio, television, personal experience or any other sources available, describe some real situations happening anywhere in the world in which lack of community and public services affects people’s health and well-being.
Fill in the work sheet “Community services and people’s health” (397Kb) with as much information as you can collect. Present and discuss the findings with your class, family, friends or others.
How does your community rate?
Use the “How does your community rate” work sheet (487Kb) to evaluate the basic public services in your community that affect people’s health and make suggestions for improvements. The evaluation can be done by interviewing knowledgeable people and experts in the community, such as local leaders, associations and community groups, health and social workers, religious leaders, elders, local authorities and government ministries. What opportunities do people have to influence decisions affecting their health? What can each of us do to help improve the public services?
Prepare a report or a presentation for your school, family and community with the results of your analysis, suggestions for improvements and actions that can be taken. For example, if health care service is a problem, you might suggest community organization for transportation to hospitals or health centres or for bringing in medicines to families in need. If sanitation is a problem, you could identify the causes and indicate this to community leaders. If sufficient food is not available for everyone, you could suggest setting up food donations or food banks, community gardens, organizing transportation and facilities for food markets, or helping people get to food markets and shops.
- Work sheet “Proverbs and sayings about health” (497 kb)
- Work sheet “Making a contribution despite health problems” (488 kb)
- Work sheet “Personal choices affecting our health” (509 kb)
- Example Work sheet “Personal choices affecting our health” (511 kb)
- Example Work sheet “Basic Public Services” (500 kb)
- Work sheet “Community services and people’s health” (514 kb)
- Into the field Work sheet “How does your community rate” (476 kb)
Download all Materials(3.2 Mb)
Review these three key points to remember about what it means to be in good health. Check your understanding of them and see how you can apply it to your own life.
Good Health and Well-Being
- Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not just the absence of disease or infirmity.
- Good health depends on making positive personal choices, including eating nourishing food, being physically active, and avoiding unhealthy habits, such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse and risky sexual practice.
- Good health is best achieved through a partnership between the efforts and responsibilities of the individual and the efforts of the community to provide goods and services that help protect or improve health.