Health Information Portals

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Jenny Epstein

How health is defined determines the types of information people are looking for and determines the types of behavioral changes people are willing to make to obtain it.


The word


What makes one healthy? What are the components of life that are considered in this definition?
In the original editions of the book “Our Bodies Ourselves” the authors redefined what health for women consisted of. They included many external factors, such as domestic violence and sexuality, which were not considered a part of health information in conventional medicine. Yet understanding how these factors affected daily living, allowed women to make changes for a better quality life.
Antidepressants and stimulants are widely used medications. They allow people to perform better, to tolerate situations and conform to social norms that they perhaps would not be able to adapt to otherwise. However, an alternative definition might question whether these medications really promote “health”.
Does being healthy mean simply adopting behaviors such as compliance? Compliance with a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) will allow a smoker to continue smoking without his/her ulcer acting up. Surgery will allow a heavy drinker to continue drinking, for a few years at least before his heart stops. Many people are grateful to be able to function productively in stressful family situations with the help of antidepressants. These medications keep them “healthy”. But many people are looking for something more profound. They are willing to work harder and dig deeper to come to more real and lasting changes that can result in a different state of living.
Health is a social norm that all people are capable of defining. Scientific research alone cannot define what health is. Alternative ways of defining health are important for people to access, not only to find information that will specifically address the types of solutions they are looking for, e.g., a non-drug method of controlling blood pressure but also to define what being healthy means. Definitions of health are important because they also provide a teaching tool of alternative ways to live.


Public Health Information must reflect a wide variety of definitions of health. It must also clearly define the sources of information it is drawing on. Health Information should be tailored to the definitions of health that the intended audience defines, not vice-versa. A goal of Public Health Information should be to make people think about how they themselves define being healthy.

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