Theoretical and Practical Issues in the Definition of Health: Insights From Aboriginal Australia
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 2009 February; 34(1): 49-67
This paper discusses attempts to define health within a public policy arena and practical and conceptual difficulties that arise. An Australian Aboriginal definition of health is examined. Although there are certain difficulties of translation, this definition is prominent in current Australian health policy and discourse about health. The definition can be seen as broadly holistic in comparison to other holistic definitions such as that of the World Health Organization. The nature of this holism and its grounding within the context of Aboriginal Australia is discussed. In particular, its implications for the phenomenon of medicalization, which may be associated with a holistic notion of health, is critically explored, as is the link of notions of health to culture and the question of the possibility of a universal definition of health. The question of to what extent a definition of health is inspirational or operational is also raised.
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