Giving Ourselves WHO’s Gift of Health

Who is WHO? WHO is the World Health Organization, the United Nations’ agency for international health. The 1948 Charter of WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  

April 2018 will bring us the 70th anniversary of WHO. Though I often write about food and nutrition, they are not the only basis for good health. As the WHO definition of health tells us, we must broaden our focus to include physical, mental and social well-being. Physical activity at work or during leisure is equally important as nutrition. Mental health depends on our relationships with other people, with our community and with the environment. We’re not health hermits! Research shows that people who find something to be grateful for every day live happier, healthier and longer lives. Social well-being equals interdependence. Safety of our water, quality of our food and the relative cleanliness of our air reflect collective commitments.

Social well-being also includes the protection and development of children and the communal support of the persons who nurture and educate them. Social well-being means taking good care of people who are exposed to potential hardships by age, frailty, economic stress, physical or mental challenges, or for any other reasons. Social well-being requires our readiness to correct abuse. All of that is part of individual and community health.  

At the heart of the WHO definition is “community.” This word doesn’t appear in the definition, but the concept is foundational for all three components (physical, mental, and social). To be healthy, we need to be connected and compassionate toward one another.

Speaking of connectivity, we in Downsview just got a boost. The subway extension means improved connectivity with friends, with family members, with our uptown and downtown universities and hospitals. Our social fabric will be tighter and our professional performance will be enhanced and will become more efficient. Health and transportation are intimately connected. For the 75th anniversary of WHO, our present will be the Finch LRT, bringing a game-changing Arts Centre and Community Hub at Jane-Finch. It will be an uplift—a health uplift.

Ever since my early years in Canada, the WHO definition of health has been an inspiration for me. I am grateful that individual health and community health coincide in my professional career.   

Opinions or questions? Write to Nicole Constant is a registered Doctor of Naturopathy. Her website is:


(Visited 66 times, 1 visits today)