Health Ecology: Health, Culture, and Human-Environment Interaction

By Morteza Honari; Thomas Boleyn | Go to book overview

4

Human health as an ecological problem

Napoleon Wolanski

Abstract

Health is not a clearly defined notion, although we all feel we know what it is. This vagueness derives from the subjective nature of health. Health means fitness to live, with a feeling of well-being, and all these elements-'fitness', 'feeling' and 'well-being'-are subjective. While health escapes precise measurement, its description requires a definite point of reference which must be linked to the environment. Health reflects the relationship between an organism and its environment in both time and space. This chapter discusses four main interrelated problems: how to define health in terms of environmental criteria; how to measure health using positive indices (such as body build and physical fitness) in relation to those values from local populations, which have been moulded by the environment; limitations of negative indices of health (morbidity and mortality); and how the relationships between human populations and the environment change in the contemporary world, with the effects of modern civilizations and new pathological phenomena.


A conceptual overview

Health is not a clearly defined notion although we all feel we know what it is. This vagueness derives from the subjective nature of health. While health escapes precise measurement, its description requires a definite point of reference, which could be found in the environment.

Health could be understood as a 'certain' psycho-physical condition of humans determined by a 'proper' structure of the organism as well as a result of a 'dynamic balance' between the organism and its environment (homeorhesis).

Dynamic balance, or homeorhesis, is a developmental homeostasis over the time of ontogenetic development, related to the age of the subject and environmental conditions. It is changing (dynamic) homeostasis. The words 'certain' and 'proper' are indicative of how relative the evaluations may be.

Health is a vector, showing a range from good to bad health. This meaning of health could be applied, with slight modifications, to entire populations. Health and its symptoms vary substantially and dynamically with time and space. The

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Health Ecology: Health, Culture, and Human-Environment Interaction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures x
  • Tables xii
  • 1 - Health Ecology: 1
  • Part I - Health in Macro Ecosystems 35
  • 2 - Good Planets Are Hard to Find 37
  • 3 - Health and Conservation 59
  • 4 - Human Health as an Ecological Problem 79
  • 5 - Health Through Sustainable Development 112
  • 6 - Health and Political Ecology 135
  • Part II - Health in Micro Ecosystems 151
  • 7 - Health of Women 153
  • 8 - Health of Children 175
  • 9 - Healthy Homes 193
  • Part III - Selected Case Studies 207
  • 10 - Health Ecology and the Biodiversity of Natural Medicine 209
  • 11 - Health of Rural and Urban Communities in Developing Countries 227
  • 12 - Health and Psychology of Water 250
  • 13 - Health Impact Assessment in Flanders 258
  • Index 267
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