The Goals of Health Work: Quality of Life, Health and Welfare
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 2006; 9(2): 155-167
Health-related quality of life is the ultimate general goal for medicine, health care and public health, including health promotion and health education. The other important general goal is health-related welfare. The aim of the paper is to explain what this means and what the consequences of these assumptions are for health work. This involves defining the central terms "health", "quality of life" and "welfare" and showing what their conceptual relations are. Health-related quality of life has two central meanings: health-related well-being, which constitutes quality of life, and health as ability, which contributes causally to quality of life. Four meanings of health-related welfare are put forward: general well-being, health as ability, other inner properties of the individual, and external factors. States and processes covered by these categories contribute causally to health-related quality of life. Finally, using these distinctions, some more specific goals for medicine and health care, on the one hand, and for public health and health promotion, on the other, are outlined. In the former fields work is primarily directed towards changing the health-related quality of life of the individual through direct measures, "manipulating" the individual, whereas public health work and health promotion primarily use indirect measures and further health through various sorts of health-related welfare changes, e.g. through changing the environment.
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