Should the Definition of Health Include a Measure of Tolerance?


Feb 15, 2017

A doctor talking with a stressed patient

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This commentary originally appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association on February 14, 2017.

In 1948 the World Health Organization officially defined health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”[1] The definition has remained unchanged for more than 60 years. When it was adopted, tools to measure health did not exist.[2] Indeed, it was decades before a comprehensive set of tools to measure physical, mental, and social well-being were developed....

The remainder of this commentary can be found on

JAMA. 2017;317(6):585-586.


  • [1] Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, NY, June 19-22, 1946; signed on July 22, 1946, by the representatives of 61 states (Official Records of the World Health Organization, No. 2, p 100); and entered into force on April 7, 1948.
  • [2] Brook RH, Ware JE Jr, Davies AA, et al. Overview of adult health status measures fielded in RAND's Health Insurance Study. Med Care. 1979;17(suppl):i-131.

Robert H. Brook holds the Distinguished Chair in Health Care Services at the RAND Corporation.