The World Health Organization (WHO) is partnered with the United Nations and has been working to support international health since it was founded in 1948. The organization is committed to the promotion of health worldwide and helping to protect vulnerable populations. The organization follows evidence-based practice and is committed to teaching people worldwide to obtain healthy practices and maintain health. The organization views health as not just the absence of disease but also considers a person’s state of physical health, mental health, and social well-being as being contributory to overall health (World Health Organization, 2023). These contributory factors to health should be maintained throughout one’s lifetime.
The term illness is not specifically defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). The organization’s mission, however, strongly revolves around the identification of factors that contribute to vulnerability to illness and the impact these have on health outcomes. These factors cover a broad range of topics that impact on health and can contribute to illness. These include communicable and noncommunicable diseases, the impact of behavioral factors and mental health, environmental factors, social determinants, and age-specific milestones that populations progress through over a lifetime, including infant health, maternal health, and aging.
We have been asked to compare our personal definitions of health and illness to that of The World Health Organization (WHO). Prior to this discussion, I was not fully aware of how the WHO defined these terms. In researching the topic, I recognized that there are many shared similarities in the perspective of these terms that I have. The link between physical and mental health has always been an apparent connection in the populations that I have cared for. Manger (2019) notes that there is a significant decline in life expectancy, as much as 10 to 20 years, in those with mental illness versus the general population. Mental illness is associated with a higher rate of concomitant chronic illnesses which can account for this discrepancy.
The impact of social well-being and mental health are factors that have always been associated with me. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines these as separate influences on health and illness. I can see how and why social well-being has global recognition by WHO. When social well-being is considered in reference to vulnerable populations like migrants and refugees, then it certainly is deserving of being its own category that contributes to the health of populations. With a newfound perspective on these terms and a semester of learning ahead of us, I look forward to processing more information and concepts that will help to make me a stronger advanced practice nurse with a Doctor of Nursing Practice in the future.
Manger S. (2019). Lifestyle interventions for mental health. Australian Journal of General Practice, 48(10), 670–673. https://doi.org/10.31128/AJGP-06-19-4964
World Health Organization.(2023). The Global Health Observatory: Health and well being. Health and Well-Being (who.int)