What is Basic Health?

   Health concerns are a worldwide topic. Unfortunately, understanding basic health is as convoluted as the Affordable Health Care Act in the United States. (Is it too complex?)

     As I research the idea of basic health, I continue to find information on health care and health services. For example; the Basic Health Plan just funded in New York. Tell me, how is this innovative? While researching basic health globally, I find definitions of global health but fall short of an accepted industry standard to basic health across the globe. It seems to me, we must be able to define basic health before we can assess the need to provide care. Sounds like a classic mistake, one I actually made the first time I came down to Nicaragua. (I’ve just arrived after a brief holiday which explains the gap in posts.) I thought for sure I knew the kind of health care necessary in Nicaragua with little to no previous knowledge. While some of my ideas were correct, such as, hand washing and glove wearing, there are many aspects to basic health I completely missed. How about basic food intake? Basic body movements or exercise? Basic “healthy” routines? Nicaragua is not the only country with these issues, in fact, these issues spread across the globe.

    So now, I will make my argument, or definition rather, for basic health. Basic health is the maintenance in all required areas to allow the body to function. I like to think of the body as the best machine known to the human race. Just like any machine, humans must give their body the required inputs and perform the required outputs for optimal operation. We are at a point in our societal existence, our science, and our experience to understand the basic functions of the human body. Hell, even in my mere 23 years I can tell you what makes me feel “optimal” and what doesn’t.

    If I am going to accept the definition of health as termed in 1948 by WHO as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” I’ll need to expand on the basic characteristics of how to achieve and maintain this so called health. The requirements I am about to list should not be news to you. Assuming you’re alive, there are a few demands you’ll need to meet for basic health.

  1. Water: The human body will last no longer than approximately 3 days without water. Since your body is anywhere between 50-75% water, having potable water is vital to basic health.
  2. Essential Nutrients: The reason we consume food is to obtain both the energy and the the nutrients we are unable to create within our body. Basic health requires we give ourselves what is necessary to survive. Remember this the next time a craving comes to mind. And, although it may be overlooked, food contributes to our mental health as well. Fatty Omega 3 and Omega 6 acids obtained mostly from fish improve cerebral function.
  3. Exercise: The human body was made to move. Muscles and joints will actually start to strain and ache if not put to use, so basic body movements such as yoga, running, swimming, etc. must be performed in basic health. Exercise is likely the most easily attained requirement globally. Many places in the world which lack both water and essential nutrients incorporate body movements into their daily life. Exercise also helps release endorphins for mental health!
  4. Sleep: Believe it or not, both your body and your mind need rest from being active all day. Why do you think dreams come from the subconscious? However, having the ability to sleep soundly and in a comfortable, safe place is unfortunately not available to a large portion of the world.
  5. Physical Touch: It’s true, newborns can actually die without receiving physical touch even if all their other basic health needs are met. While my long distance boyfriend and I might joke about not receiving our “hug-quota,” I believe it is essential to both physical and mental health to have human touch. So go hug someone!
  6. Prevention: While each of the other basic health requirements prevent illness and disease, recognizing and accepting scientific information about prevention is also important. As a redhead, I have had to realize I am more susceptible to cancer caused by burns from the sunlight. Even in the tropics, I remember to take precautions. I argue that understanding and taking preventative action is apart of basic health.

I want to reemphasize, I am making an argument for the definition of basic health. Basic health refers mostly to the physiological, safety, and possibly the love and belonging steps in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. (Refer to my last post on “Fathers are Vital to Improving Global Health.”)

    I would love to hear thoughts about adopting and adapting a universal definition for basic health.  I believe defining basic health universally is the first step in making health a global issue.


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