NOTE: The concepts in this blog posting have been updated and the revised Hierarchy of Health - Primary and Secondary Disciplines, can be viewed here.
To define health, to understand health, to study health, we start with the primary elements of health and expand those to cover all aspects of health. Simple? Actually, it is not terribly complicated. A complete chart of the basic 'disciplines of health' can be found on the Personal Health Freedom website.
This chart begins with the basic components of health: nutrients, cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, mind, spirit and community. These basic components are arranged into a hierarchy, where each is dependent on the layers below. Each of these basic components has a well know 'field of study', which is identified on the chart, respectively as: nutrtion, cytology, histology, anatomy, systemic anatomy, physiology, cognitive physiology, spirtiual studies and community studies.
The secondary health components are created by combining primary health compnents - first with immediate neighbors, and then with farther components. The chart of secondary components begins, for example, with cellular nutrition, tissue nutrition, thru spiritual nutrition to community nutrition. Here we can see health studies that we intuitively 'knew about', but had no prior foundation to support or define. Note: this is the first published version of the chart - I do expect it to be improved with input from readers like you.
We can use the chart to analyze and make corrections and improvements in our basic understanding of health. What is the proper term for the study of cellular spirituality, for example? Is it valid to create a field of health to study the effects of improvements in individual spiritual health on the health of cells? Of course we may need to define and re-define 'spiritual health' as we proceed in this analysis.
This is the basic starting point for the study of health. It soon becomes very complex. The study of healthy nutrition, for example might start with a study of the foods, or nutritional compounds that are essential to good health. At present, we don't have a clear understanding of how many 'essential nutritional compounds' exist. A quick scan retreives answers ranging from 6 essential nutrients (water, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals) to lists of over 100 essential nutrients - only some of which fit into the 6 basic nutrients initially defined.
Similarily, each of the primary components of health, can become a study of hundreds of individual components. The next layer, cellular health includes the study of over 200 different types of cells in the human body - but this number is limited to 'human cells'. As far as I know, there is no similar list of how many 'non-human cells' are essential or contribute to health. When you map nutrition to cells - a comprehensive study of cellular nutrition, would be a study of the nutritional needs of each of the cell types, human and non-human, to optimize your health although many are known to exist.
The word 'optimize' is key. Present nutritional standards (RDI - Reference Dietary Intake) are defined as 'sufficient to meet the health needs'. This measurement is far away from 'the appropriate amount to optimize your health'. Optimize health is also a double edged sword, that requires significant research and analysis. Some health actions may strengthen your health in one (or more) areas, and weaken it in other areas. And oc course too much of a good thing - is not good. Personal decisions are required for personal health optimization.
Our current studies of medicine tend to look at 'avoidance, or treatment, of disease and infirmity' as the goal. This goal is not appropriate to optimize health. In order to optimize health, the goal must be simply stated as 'to optimize health'. Optimal health is difficult to measure. What is the optimal level of cellular health for a 50 year old Polish male living in Canada? In fact, each of us is different, and eeach of use has our own unique optimal health status which changes as we grow - and then age.
To attain optimal health, we need more research into health, not illness. We need free access to information about health, freedom to take health decisions and actions on our own behalf.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: