"Complete physical, mental and social well-being" - The Goal of Sustainable Development in Health
The Goal of Sustainable Development in Health
A long and healthy life is the universal wish of all members of mankind. Everybody will agree that health is a fundamental pre-requirement to enjoy all aspects of life. But what is health?
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." This basic definition of the World Health Organization (WHO) was adopted in 1948 by all members of the United Nations and has been the guideline of health workers all over the world ever since.
From this definition it becomes clear that not the treatment of illness but the prevention of illness is at the core of health work. In May, 2000 the Chinese delegate to the 53rd World Health Assembly, the governing body of the the WHO, when asked about the priorities of China answering clearly: Prevention first, equality in access to medical services second and eradiction of major diseases third, especially AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. To support the prevention of diseases, more than 4000 epidemic prevention stations have been set up in China.
Prevention can have many faces: It starts with simple procedures to increase hygiene like washing hands or boiling water before drinking, which is a part of the common knowledge of people. In 1984 to prevent blindness of children due to a Vitamin A deficiency in their nutrition, the Chinese government started a nationwide program. Tobacco consumption causes hundreds of thousands out of the 400 million Chinese smokers each year to die prematurely, so preventing young people taking up the habit is a major task. The usage of impregnated mosquito nets can prevent the spreading of malaria and using condoms can prevent sexual transmission of AIDS. Even the control of the working conditions in factories and township enterprises can prevent workers and neighbours from health problems related to poisoning (e.g. food or chemical).
Sustainable development is unthinkable without a good working prevention system to ensure the well-being of all citizens. For most illnesses fortunately Science has developed solutions by using biological diagnosis, vaccination and treatment.
By taking stock of the most common and most dangerous diseases, a health policy can be formulated. Biological diagnostics then help to connect diagnosis and therapy. Modern science can target bacteria and viruses much more precisely than before, reducing the risk of resistance as well as reducing the cost of prevention.
In 55 years of development, major achievements have been made in disease prevention and treatment in China. Today, the main causes of death are malignant tumours, cerebrovascular diseases and heart diseases, which are typical causes of death in developed countries. However, the necessity to remain vigilant and improve prevention of diseases and epidemia was cruelly brought home to everybody by the SARS epidemia and the outbreak of Avian influenza.