The Definition of Health and the Right to Health

The World Health Organization’s constitution, which entered into force on April 7, 1948, defines health as “the state of complete physical and mental well-being.” The word “health” itself has become synonymous with disease, but the right to health goes beyond physical conditions. It is also a social, psychological, and cultural resource that contributes to an individual’s ability to function in society. The word “health” is a human right, and it is not limited to the physical condition.


The modern medical paradigm has three distinct definitions of health. In 1948, the WHO defined health as the absence of disease. Today, this view has evolved to include the psychological, social, and environmental components of health. According to the World Health Organisation, health is a state of complete well-being. It is not simply the absence of disease, but the fullness of one’s self. In addition, an individual’s capacity to adapt and cope with a variety of circumstances is a sign of health.

A common view of health is one of ‘complete health’. The notion that everyone should be at the same level is unrealistic. Few people can experience complete wellbeing throughout their lives. It is also counterproductive and fails to account for chronic illnesses and disabilities. It is often a false choice that contributes to a culture of over-medication. Therefore, an individualized view of health is more helpful than a single universal view. Nevertheless, it’s not enough to focus on the physical or mental aspects of health.