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Health means different thing to different people. As a matter of fact, the concept and the real meaning of health is not properly understood by many people yet they are all expected to live in an optimal health condition. While industrialized countries with comprehensive social security and health insurance would define health primarily in term of ‘ability to work’ a different scenario may exist in other places. Linking health with work enables us to understand some basic facts. It is clearly visible the correction between risk of unemployment and sick leave. The rate of sick leave in the work place falls when there is a risk of being laid off. It should be noted that it is not that sick people are sacked nor that sick people continue to work, but that there exist a gray zone between health and disease where the individual decision of taking sick leave oscillates. This fact is equally obvious in agricultural communities when during planting and harvesting period’s hospitals are deserted by sick people and the least hand is engaged in farming activities. Defining health in relation to disease status appears confusing, complex, and grossly incomplete. It is clear that someone may be sick and still goes to work and someone may not be sick and still unable to work. Health professionals see health only as a disease entity. This is not correct. Health is not and cannot be restricted to a mere absence of disease. It is important that health workers understand the real meaning of health otherwise it will be very difficult for the make meaningful impact on the lives of the people.


The WHO defines as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmities. This definition had been criticized by many health experts in view of the problems encountered in understanding its real goal and also the thinking that it makes its concept a mere goal that will be very difficult to attain by anyone. For example, how and when do you say someone is in a state of complete physical wellbeing? Or even mental or social wellbeing? The social wellbeing comprises of something which may be called the strength to live with inescapable disabilities or handicaps. The definition of health, the acceptance of ill health obviously depends on religious, cultural, societal and scientific norms.

The WHO’s definition gives a broader concept of health and also bring into open the various important components of health which transcend the physical state of completeness. In this wise, health is seen not only a disease entity but in relation to the physical, mental and social state of wellbeing. It is the understanding that has provided another way of looking at health in the concept of wellness which is the new goal of health.

The concept of Wellness

Wellness is an expanded idea of health. While health cannot be interpreted to mean only the absence of disease, wellness transcend this understanding by considering how individual rise above their physical or mental limitations to live rich, meaningful vital lives.

Wellness in any dimension is not a static goal but a dynamic process of change and growth.

The different dimensions of health include the following areas of wellness which are deeply interrelated:

  1. Physical wellness
  2. Emotional wellness
  3. Intellectual wellness
  4. Spiritual wellness
  5. Interpersonal and social wellness
  6. Environmental or planetary wellness

These six dimensions of wellness interact continuously, influencing and being influenced by one another. Maintaining good health is equally a dynamic process and increasing the level of wellness in one area of life automatically influences may others.

While health and wellness seem largely to be an individual/personal concerns or goal, they are also of national and international concerns. Governments of various countries have programmes and vital interest in the health and wellness of her people. The Nigeria National Health system aim to ensure that all Nigerians live a healthy and productive health. This is in view of the understanding of the development implications of health. A healthy nation is a productive nation. It must be appreciate that there cannot be any meaningful development if issues relating to health are not properly attended to. In addressing the fundamental challenges of health and wellness, some factors influencing the health status of individual and the nation has to be properly understood.


  1. Cultural factors e.g customs, beliefs, taboos and practices. Some of these cultural factors are harmful to health, hence should be discouraged. Some religious practices are cultural in nature and they may have effect on health both positively and negatively. For instance, absolution as practiced by Muslims may enhance personal hygiene to some extent (depending on how one views it) while a similar practice of not eating pork for example may reduce source of protein supplies to the body where for one reason or the other there is no other source of animal proteins apart from pork. Among the Christians, some practices may have positive effect as well as negative effect on health. For example, the practice of not wearing shoe which may increase chances of hookworm infections for example. Since culture is a way of life that is passed from generation to generation, health workers should be diplomatic when trying to discourage harmful factors and at the same time promote the beneficial ones.
  2. Environmental factors which include water supply, sanitation refuse disposal, drainage system, housing and air pollution. Apart from being health promoting, most environmentally related facilities determines the levels of hygiene to be maintained by each person. Availability of water determines to a large extent types of latrine to be used in a premises and the extent to which it could be kept clean. Personal hygiene and cleanliness remains one of the most important environmental factors affecting personal and public health.
  3. Socio-economic factors which include economic activities of the community, level of income/poverty, level of education, social amenities like electricity, communication methods etc. Each of these has significant influence on health.
  4. Personal factors which include personal hygiene, level or knowledge of health matters, attitude to health system and health practices, habit and addict.
  5. Ignorance factors. Lack of knowledge about health and issues affecting health and wellness is important in determining the health of the population. In some cases, people may not even be aware of the existence of health facilities, services and opportunities. Ignorance is chief among factors influencing health particularly in many countries of Africa.
  6. Geographical factors i.e climatic condition, type of soil, topography land size etc. Many geographical factors influence the types of vector and /or parasites that may be prevalent in a particular place or region and also the possibility of their control and/ or elimination.
  7. Nutritional factors. Nutrition is a major determinant of health in that, it influences the body’s ability to resist infection otherwise known as body’s immunity. Malnutrition is a major health problem of many people in developing countries resulting from many factors ranging from lack of food supply, poverty and ignorant. In another sense, infection and illness could be result into malnutrition as a result of nutrients not being available for the body’s use.
  8. Political factors: – These are informing of political agenda, policies and programmes also affect health in a number of ways. The political environment prevailing at any point in time is also very important.
  9. Organizational factors: in term of organization and administration of the health system and the department. Also important in this case is the staffing and the availability of other resources.
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