Here we are at Part 4 where we’ll begin to consider the physical dimension of health. I have waited almost a week since Part 3 to allow plenty of time for you to think through the concepts covered so far. Recall that in the last installment we considered health as something we could consider as occupying various places on a continuum.

Essentially, I wanted to achieve two things. I wanted you to see a way that we could conceptualize varying degrees or levels or even amounts of health and I wanted to make crystal clear that health and disease are entirely separate concepts and not actually opposites of one another.

You should easily see it follows that knowledge and expertise related to disease are not necessarily at all related to knowledge and expertise related to health. They are wholly separate conceptually, though holistically of course, their interrelationships, even ultimate oneness, are noted. For now though, to help my western thinking readers, just note that they are separate concepts.

So now we are going to introduce physical health. There is generally little difficulty in identifying what we mean by physical: it is health of the body. Recall from Part 2 in this series that health is a state of complete physical wellbeing and is not merely the absence of disease.

Now we have suggested in Part 3 that health is in some sense measurable. How then do we measure physical wellbeing? As I sometimes say, humans don’t come with a manual so we have to work out our own specifications. When we have some "specs" a measurement approach will become more evident.

One approach has been research based. Just about everything humans have been found able to do has been observed, counted, recorded in some way. The result is a massive database (or many of them actually) of recorded data from which so-called normal values may be obtained.

In what sense are these values considered normal? In various ways actually. For instance the notion of statistically normal is derived from large sample sets of measurements. Effectively this appraoch argues that if most people can be measured at or above some chosen level then that represents normal. This then allows for determining below or non-normal values that might imply a state of being unhealthy. In the same way, very high values may represent excellent health.

Another approach to determining what’s normal is called a functional approach. This approach argues that if a person can physically manage the demands of daily living, that is they can function unaided, they must be normal. Clearly then, a simple cutt-off appears possible between healthy and not healthy since a person can either "function" or they can’t.

It is very easy to citicize these concepts of what normal means and how they are measured. There is also room to question the relationship between normal and health. Nevertheless, for our purposes they will suffice for now.

I find it useful to adopt aspects of the normographic (statistics based) and functional approaches and then roll them into action. So I would say that a physically healthy person is able to do the things necessary to sustain their life at a healthy level and to cope with and repair the usual wear and tear of daily living which everybody experiences.

In our next installment, Part 5, we’ll continue this dimension of physical health. In particular I will sharpen our understanding by exploring the very determinants of physical wellbeing. Don’t miss it.

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