If you check your local dictionary, health is a noun. You might have your health, lose your health or regain your health. Health is also an adjective, as in health clinic, health centre, health insurance – although you might not find these examples in your dictionary, possibly because the intention is sales, or different: sickness clinic, fitness centre, illness insurance. We also use health as an interjection, when delivering a toast “Health!” And of course health might also be an adverb, in the forms healthy – he went for a healthy walk, and healthily – he ate healthily every day.
What about health? What word says we are ‘improving our physical health’. Surely we are healthing our bodies. Meditating healths our mind, and our spirit. A varied diet is a way to health our bodies.
But, we don’t use health as a verb.Today, dictionaries don’t recognize that health is a verb. Why not?
If health was a verb, then ‘to health’ would be to improve your healthiness. We don’t have a word for increasing our healthiness. In fact, many dictionaries don’t contain the word ‘healthiness’ either. We have words for fighting and recovering from sickness: treat, cure, heal. But, once you are no longer ‘sick’, those become irrelevant.
We recognize that illness can be present before it reaches the point of diagnosis. Only once it is severe enough, can it be diagnosed. It can become much more severe. Illness can range from minor to very severe, from unimportant – it will pass, to mortal – you will pass. When we treat illness, cure illness, or heal the damage caused by an illness, we move up the scale, from red to green.
In the medical paradigm, once we pass the point of diagnosis – the illness is gone, and little more improvement is possible. There might still be some minor symptoms, if you had a cold – your nose might still feel uncomfortable for a few days. If you had an infected appendix removed – you will still have a scar, and no more appendix.
Health is bigger than illness. Healthiness can continue to be improved when there is no illness, or after an illness is cured.
We can health our bodies, minds, spirits, and even our communities, when illness is present. We can health them even more, when illness is not present. “Health” is the verb “to increase healthiness”.
When we combine these views, we see more.
Medicine has a focus on illness. Healthicine takes a wider view. We need to study illness and healthiness. We need to learn to heal and to health.
Don’t confuse the verb health with prevention. Sometimes, we prevent illness by improving healthiness – consume a healthy diet. But we often prevent illness by lowering our healthiness. We wear a helmet, which adds weight and blocks vision, to prevent damage to the head, and a life jacket, which adds weight and decreases mobility – to prevent drowning. We might use drugs to lower our cholesterol and aspirin to thin our blood, in an attempt to prevent illness – but these ‘preventatives’ actually decrease our healthiness.
Health is a verb. We can health our bodies, our minds, our spirits and our communities.
And our communities. That’s important. We recognize that communities, from families, to associations, to companies and corporations, to churches, to governments at all levels, can be damaged, and need to ‘heal’. We also need to recognize that when they are ‘not sick’ – we can still work to health them.
“Courage, my friends; ’tis not too late to build a better world.”, said Tommy Douglas. It’s never too late to health ourselves and our communities.
We don’t need to be sick to health ourselves and to health our communities. We need only remember that “health” can be a verb.
to your health, tracy
author: Introduction to Healthicine: Theories of Health, Healthiness, Illness and Aging