Friday, January 8, 2010

Health Defined

What is health? What is healthy? What is illness? What is medicine? What is practicing medicine? What is food? What is a drug? What is a treatment?

Health is a very complex topic. If you go to your doctor for a checkup, you might be declared ‘healthy’. But what is that? Does healthy mean you are 9 on a scale of 10? Or does healthy mean you are at 6 on a scale of 10, but not sick? What if you have a condition, like diabetes, which can be measured on a scale, but you are otherwise healthy? Arrrgggg.

WHO, the World Health Organization was formed in 1948. At that time, they defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”,

I suspect this definition came from a committee. It has the mark of a committee – sloppy English and muddled thinking. As written, it is a definition of perfect health ‘a state of complete ... well-being’, followed by a waffle clause – ‘and not merely’.

I think the intended meaning was: the health of a personal, group or a nation can be defined as

the combined state of physical, mental and social well being.”

What is personal health freedom? The freedom to take subjective and objective measurements of your levels of health and to take any actions you believe will change your level of health in the way you wish.

What is health? The question is often stated, definitions are often proposed. We need a definitive one. I’ll start. Help me out with constructive criticism if you can. I will use the term ‘being’ as short for ‘person, group or nation’ to avoid wordiness and repetition. I hope you will find my definitions useful and provocative.

Health is a measure of the state of wellness of a person, or community.

note: The following section of the blog is historical, as I developed my ideas.  The structure for studying health has been updated and expanded in the Hierarchy of Health blog which shows a slightly different structure - and one more suited to further analysis. 

Nutritional health is the wellness level of nutrients in and consumed by the being. Nutritional health is the foundation for all health. Without nutritional health – all other health components will start to fail. Nutritional health is dependent on foods consumed in the past, present and future. From a cellular point of view - and we consist of our cells, nutritional health is measured by the health of the 'soil' that is our body's food supply to our cells as well as the food delivered thru food.

Cellular health is the wellness level of the cells of a being. Nutritional health is required for cellular health; however cellular health can also be affected positively or negatively by other factors from genetics and exercise to toxins and radiation. Cellular health of a person includes the healthy presence of non-human cells, bacteria, viruses, etc.

Organ health is the wellness level of the organs of a being. Eg. Liver, lungs, skin and heart. Cellular health is required for organ health.

System health is the wellness level of the various systems that exist in a person. Including the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the nervous system, the elimination systems (of which the respiratory system is one), and the hormonal systems. System health is dependent on the health of the organs supporting the system, and thus dependent on the nutritional health and cellular health.

Physical health is the wellness level of the entire body, including muscles, tendons, bones and hair. Physical health is dependent on all prior levels. Note: 'the body' might be 'the body of the community being examined'.

Mental health is the wellness level of the being, including memory, calculation and planning. Mental health is dependent on the health of all prior levels. Note: what our society defines as 'mental illness' is often not directly related to mental health - and may be closer aligned with spiritual and social health.

Sexual health is the wellness level of the sexual interactions of a being. Sexual health is dependent on all prior levels of health.   I have come to the conclusion in later blog postings that sexual health is a system, not an element in the hierarchy. 

Spiritual health. Spiritual health is personal. It is not dependent on freedom. It can help maintain a healthy balance when other health components are severely affected. You might think that spiritual health is independent. It is possible to have a strong spirit when your main health status is ‘your legs are being eaten away by cancer’, but maybe that’s not a healthy attitude. It is important to distinguish between 'strong spirit' and a 'healthy spirit'.

Social Health - was renamed and redefined as community health upon reflection and analysis. 

Community health is the wellness level of the communities of humans and their interactions. Community health is dependent on freedoms to associate and work together for health - a freedom that is currently severely curtailed in many areas.

I tried to sequence the components of health in a logical, dependent order, from the basics of nutrition to the complexities of community health. Did I miss anything? Let me know your thoughts.

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Freedom? Health?

What is freedom?

What is personal freedom? How does this relate to health? And what about groups? Families, organizations, religions, etc. do they have rights of freedom as a group? Should they? And what about the ‘state’. Is the government ‘free’ to do as it wishes?

Freedom is a very complex idea. Wiki gives many definitions,

Freedom may refer to:
 Freedom (philosophy), the idea of being free.
 Freedom (political), the absence of interference with the sovereignty of an individual
 Four freedoms, Roosevelt's freedoms of (1) speech and (2) belief, along with the freedom from (3) fear and (4) want.
 Liberty, the condition in which an individual has the ability to act according to his or her own will
 Economic freedom, a term in economic research and policy debates
 Free content, freedom of an artistic work to be redistributed, modified, and studied by others
 Individual freedom, the moral stance, political philosophy, or social outlook that stresses independence and self-reliance
 Statue of Freedom, on top of the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, D.C.

As always, the official word is wanting... Freedom is a term so broad that it cannot be constrained by definitions. It can be explored by definitions.
What are our rights to freedom?

I love the quote from John Ralston Saul “Freedom - an occupied space which must be reoccupied every day.
Freedom is not something that ‘once attained is owned’. It is like peace, sometimes it is necessary to use force to maintain your freedom.
I deliberately chose the words ‘personal health freedom’ to distinguish my concept from ‘individual freedoms’. Corporations and cats are individuals, but they are not people.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
—Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

It is clear we cannot define freedom precisely. However, in the context of ‘personal health’, a useful definition of freedom is not difficult.

If a ‘person’ believes that a specific action will affect their health, in a way they want to affect their health – they should be free to take that action.

Freedom is freedom to act. Freedom to choose. To open a door, climb a wall, or, in the words of John Ralston Saul – to occupy a space. Personal health freedom is freedom to take actions that affect your health.

Note: I did not argue to take actions that ‘improve’ my health. That would be too simple. It would also leave the door open for opposition on the basis that ‘this’ action might not improve my health. Most, if not all actions that ‘improve your health’ can also cause poor health in certain situations. Many things that improve short term health, can lead to severe problems in the long term. Examples range from drinking water to taking painkillers. Every health decision has positive and negative aspects. Only the person who is ultimately ‘affected’ can make the decision.

Now we are getting dangerous... What if, someone argues that whatever they want to do is ‘for their health’ – and therefore they must be ‘free’ to act. In theory, they can do whatever they want.

Hmm.. What is the opposite of ‘freedom’? My thesaurus says: captivity, confinement, imprisonment, incarceration, limitation, servitude, slavery. I think we’re talking about ‘limitations’ as the opposite of ‘personal health freedom’.
Limitations has two main meanings, one of which is not relevent. Limitation: restraint, disadvantage

bar, block, check, condition, constraint, control, cramp, curb, impediment, inhibition, injunction, obstruction, reservation, restriction, stricture, taboo

What if someone wants to ‘smoke cigarettes’ for the short term ‘healthy feeling’ they get, even though in the long term, smoking damages their health? We permit them to smoke. To make their own health decisions, negative and positive.

What if someone wants to take an action, or treatment, that some people believe is ‘negative’, because they believe it will provide temporary, or permanent benefit?

Does our society need a way to constrain health freedom? And what constraints are reasonable?

Suddenly our discussion of ‘personal health freedom’ becomes a discussion of limitations, constraints, restrictions and taboos. We need a new blog for that discussion.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Health Freedom Survey – January 2010

What is Health Freedom? Why me?
A quick google survey reveals many sites purporting, proposing, and pursuing health freedom. How do they define health freedom? – is a web page that consist of an email signup page, which dies if you enter your name and email address? What’s up?

The American Association for Health Freedom ( as well as has become the Alliance for Natural Health - USA. Eg. Health Freedom is freedom to sell health (and by extension, health freedom is freedom to make health purchases).

They say: The Alliance for Natural Health USA (ANH-USA)*, is part of an international organization dedicated to promoting sustainable health and freedom of choice in healthcare through good science and good law.

The Alliance for Natural Health says: The ANH is an internationally-active, not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation, based in the UK, that is working to help positively shape the regulatory and scientific framework affecting natural health in order to develop more sustainable, natural and biologically-compatible approaches to healthcare.

What is Health Freedom?
Health Freedom New Zealand, lists several international Health Freedom sites at: which range from
- the Alliance for Natural Health,
- to the Canadian Red Umbrella Ladies - – “We are among 3000 Canadians who use a high potency vitamin and mineral supplement for the treatment of Bipolar Affective Disorder. The supplement, called Empowerplus has allowed us or a loved one to completely control the symptoms of manic depression and has facilitated a return to a normal, healthy life. All without the well-documented side effects of psychotropic drugs. Many of us have resolved our illness with Empowerplus while under the supervision of our doctors.”.

Wikki says: “The term health freedom movement is used to describe the loose coalition of organizations, consumers, activists, alternative medicine practitioners and producers of products around the world who are campaigning for unhindered freedom of choice in healthcare. The movement is critical of the pharmaceutical industry and medical regulators, and uses the term "health freedom" as a catch phrase to convey its message.”

Why me?

I believe in Personal Health Freedom.

The Institute for Health Freedom , says: “The Institute for Health Freedom was established in 1996 to bring the issues of personal health freedom to the forefront of America's health policy debate. Our mission is to present the ethical and economic case for strengthening personal "health freedom," defined as:
The freedom to choose one's health care providers and treatments, and to maintain confidential relationships with one's providers, without interference from government or private third parties.
The Institute does not endorse any health care treatment, product, provider, or organization. Rather, the Institute for Health Freedom is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center—a Washington-based "think tank."

This is closer to my objectives, but still missing much that I believe is ‘personal health freedom’. First of all, it has a decidedly ‘born in the USA approach’.

I understand that it is important to ‘act locally’, but believe it is also important to ‘think globally’.

What is health freedom? What is health? What is freedom? What is ‘personal health freedom’. Today, we have many questions, and too few answers.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: