I define health as the overall condition of the human body, including all aspects of mental, physical and emotional health. I define illness as an involuntary chronic condition that affects health for which one would obtain treatment for. I believe I chose these criteria from a combination of influences from school, society and personal experiences. My coursework here at MSU has taught me about the different clinical definitions of health, illness and disease, which I once believed to be interchangeable. Along with my personal experiences of interacting those affected by an illness that society may not necessarily consider “sick”, I have formed my own criteria which I personally believe to be true.
I found it particularly difficult to categorize poverty and infertility. Although poverty is definitely involuntary, it can directly affect health, and is often times chronic, you cannot necessarily obtain treatments for poverty. Poverty is often influenced by other outside factors as well such as the political economy and location. Once in poverty, it can be very hard to come out of it. However, poverty can be one of the main factors contributing to an illness due to lack of medical care and access, improper sanitation and costs of healthcare. Infertility as well can be a chronic, involuntary condition that one could obtain treatments for. But infertility does not directly affect your health, besides the obvious inability to conceive a child. Although, since my definition of health does indeed include all aspects of mental, physical and emotional health, infertility does affect the mental and emotional health of many couples when their goal is to conceive a child. I also had trouble categorizing spirit possession due to the fact that I am personally completely unfamiliar with the condition. I could assume it is a chronic involuntary condition, but I’m not sure how it affects overall health nor the proper, if any, treatment.
The very subjective nature of defining health and illness can be very difficult when trying to relate to other cultures and groups, which is why the study of medical anthropology with a heavy emphasis on culture is so important when trying to understand the many different values and ideologies around the world.