This coming Sunday (26th September) is ITV’s Walk4Life Day, a series of organised walks in England and Wales designed to get people off their sofas and out on their feet. The event is linked to the department of health’s Change4Life initiative, aimed at improving public health by promoting lifestyle changes.
Few would dispute the benefits of a good walk for both body and soul, but with so much of government thinking about health now focused on improving health rather than curing disease, what exactly is health? This was the topic of a recent interdisciplinary workshop, organised by King’s College London’s centre for humanities and health, which brought together doctors, philosophers and others experts.
One simple definition of health is just the absence of disease. But this definition demands a further definition: what, precisely, is disease? And this question, it turns out, is surprisingly difficult to answer. The word “disease” conjures up images of measles, cancer, schizophrenia—but what, if anything, do all these have in common?