Should the Definition of Health Include a Measure of Tolerance?


(The Journal of the American Medical Association)

A doctor talking with a stressed patient

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by Robert H. Brook

February 15, 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.

This commentary originally appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association on February 14, 2017. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.