What is health ?


Abstract: In my opinion, Health is more than just the absence of disease and has little relationship to our healthcare system, which is by definition, is a system of disease management. True health requires a balance of mental, physical and emotional health, along with the components of life, meaning, happiness, fulfilment, etc. in their correct proportions. Inflammation is a common finding in the disease process and I believe that along with genetics, is probably a, if not the key component in both disease prevention and longevity.

What is health?

Health is not merely the absence of disease; it is a state of balance.

Health is not merely the absence of disease, it’s a state of balance just like a ‘healthy relationship’ or a ‘healthy respect’. There are several factors in this dynamic, physical, mental, spiritual state of belonging. I’d like therefore, to propose that the word health mean balance.

Without ‘health’ in each of these areas and without this proper balance between them, health cannot exist for long, if at all. The traditional view of health therefore leaves much to be desired at times.

A Failing System of Healthcare.

This is where much of our present healthcare systems fail us, as it should better be described as ‘disease care’ rather than ‘healthcare’ since that is what it does. Most providers are paid for treating disease and not for promoting or maintaining health. This system doesn’t work.

I’m not being judgmental – the system is engrained in (and mostly a result of) the patients, the system, culture and society. The system simply couldn’t cope if things changed took place too quickly anyway.

A perfect example is that of the role dentistry plays in overall healthcare. As a dentist I am saddened by the way that dentistry has been denigrated into a drill and fill mentality.

Dentistry performed per tooth, rather than dentistry as a discipline of integrated health is almost exclusive the result of dental insurance, coding, committee and Governmental involvement. The more disease, the more work, the more payment, the more profit, the stronger our ties with that approach.

While its time for an overhaul, the “systems” have a rather strong investment in their status quo, which is in-turn supported (perhaps in many cases driven) by big business and Government.

I use the term Government not necessarily in terms of National, but of administration. Most “healthcare systems” are top heavy and have a greater emphasis on administration than actual individual patient care.

Equally so, without prices which supporting high salaries, corporate taxes and financial benefits all around, medical equipment, supplies and management couldn’t possibly justify their costs. It’s just a matter of balance, not taking away the freedom of trade, just putting things into perspective.


In dentistry for instance, the profession have the opportunity to provide a useful service by way of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea management, which may save marriages, accidents, illness and death, yet it is so arranged as to be almost impossible to provide appropriately due to financial considerations and a medical system ardently set against change,

The other disciplines of medicine fight between themselves to get a piece of the pie that in many cases, they simply can’t cope with anyway. Indeed returning to dentistry, if only 10% of those needing such a service arrived on Monday morning to a dentist’s office, the dental profession would be overwhelmed, unable to either cope or know what to do.

We must be aware (or mindful as its now called) of the existing system and how we fit into it. Now before you think I’m going ‘off topic’ I will just mention alternative (to traditional) approaches. While I am not necessarily against any system or technique that works, nor have an ‘axe to grind’ with any of these, many use the same commercial approaches as the traditional ones that so many criticize.

Evidence base to treatment? Why bother?

As an example, in the city in which I live, naturopaths (their treatment without any scientific evidence base whatsoever) earn well in excess of physicians – and while that’s fine, I mention it only to illustrate that even “holistic” or “alternative” providers of “health” are commercial concerns using the same systems that drive most of organized healthcare today. This is not a judgement, but an observation. Individuals remain their own healthcare advocates.

Naturopathic remedies

For those who haven’t been offended and left this blog, I will also mention the incredible strength of the doctor-patient relationship, which cannot be underestimated. Failure or abuse of this trust is unacceptable and destructive, second only to parental and familial abuse.

In future blogs we’ll investigate these 5 basic cornerstones of health or balance. It can be seen that these are not isolated, but part of the balance that we call health. In some cases its difficult to put them in a particular category!


The general physical heath we associate with vitality, fitness, youth and beauty. Heart disease is an example of failure.


The health s we associate with being rational and having cognitively stability, calmness and the ability to act with cognition. Depression or bi-polar disorder may be examples of failure.


Perhaps the least acknowledged. The biochemical and cellular mechanisms and systems that govern the microscopic body in which we live. Gut bacteria imbalance and inflammation may be examples of failure.


The health s we associate with stability, calmness and the ability to cope. Are depression and addiction examples of failure. The “state of mind” and ability to feel happiness.


Meaning and belonging are areas we may associate with spiritual health, perhaps even good and evil. Failure may be a loss of connectedness, spiritual poverty.


Wealth again can mean different things to different people at different times and under different circumstances. Financial security, or even freedom, v. financial poverty.

Dr. Stephen Bray 2019

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *