What exactly is public health? It’s a broad, very inexact phrase that seems to imply something quite noble yet each nation, each person in the world interprets and acts on it quite differently.

I want to propose a remedy for this overly-broad idea of public health and give it some traditional railings buttressed by the ideas of wellness, affirmative expressions of health and even a step beyond that, of optimal, holistic health, happiness and well-being.

Different cultures have different perspectives on what comprises personal and public health and always have. The American perspective seems to suggest that it alone has the most accurate and valuable one but I show in this article how truly limited it is, to the point that it endangers public health by so grossly delimiting it, and constrains the magnificence of a life abundant with happiness and well-being as measures of health, expandable of course to the collective, to the commons, or public health.

For instance, a significant part of the understanding of public health in Bhutan is related to their “Gross National Happiness Index”. This index is deemed truly more important than the country’s “Gross Domestic Product” though not unrelated. It’s rich in one and not as rich in the other. But overall very rich! Public health is in no small measure recognized as the happiness, peace and well-being of its People. Socio-economic well-being though is indeed part also of the Happiness Index.

In the U.S., for instance, public health is measured primarily according to a single parameter. It doesn’t include happiness, emotional tranquility, peace nor well-being. It is a measure of the singular parameter of physical health only and this is usually described, not in what could be thought of as varying degrees of positively-defined health or even fitness, but as being “not sick”.

In contrast to Bhutanese or indigenous understandings of health/public health, the U.S. and the overall Western definition of Public Health appears somewhat delimited and narrow. As a result, its remedy is also narrow and usually calls into play drugs to bring the physical body into homeostasis.

To help understand public health, the etymology of the word “health” sheds much-needed light. The Indo-European root is “kailo”, meaning whole, connected to heal and holy.

Both the connotation and denotation of the word is “to make whole”. This suggests the notion, even linguistically, of “holism”, wholeness of mind-body-spirit, to be fully mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually whole.

The meaning of the word obliges us to understand our health and well-being in this larger way, holistically. Yet there is no reference to anything holistic in U.S. public health policy or in any at least Western nation that I have seen. From an orthodox, allopathic medical perspective, holistic, integrative approaches tend to be eschewed.

Considering the Bhutanese model of assessing happiness as part of wholeness as part of public health policy immediately surpasses any policy we have in the West. For a public health policy to include happiness and well-being as integral elements, considering the etymology becomes essential.

To be whole means all parts of us as a personal system, and the collective of us as a matter of expanding the individual to the collective, or an idea of public health.

Interestingly, according to the true definition of health, there is no reference or allusion to allopathic or any kind of medicine at all. If anything, it seems to suggest that to maximize health is to maximize whatever makes us feel whole, experience wholeness or even Oneness with our community and perhaps with the Universe itself. This could be our relationships with family, spouses, friends, with Nature, with the Cosmos, with ourselves. Measuring physical health in itself and considered in itself, in isolation from its environment, is a somewhat static measure. Happiness, love, joy and well-being largely define physical health, which is constantly being affected and shaped by these emotional states and mental perspectives.

Indigenous teachings from all over the world use the word medicine in the broadest sense, that good cheer, love, acts of kindness, a gentle touch is good medicine. They are not referring to medication or surgery. Love and prayer are good medicine as Dr. Larry Dossey has often reminded us.

Re-visioned Public Health involves and includes happiness and a sense of well-being. From where do we get these? Through love in one’s life, in family, partner, friends, love of daily activity, love of Nature.

I don’t know if you’ll agree with me when I suggest that as a society, we have completely lost our bearings when it comes to health, medicine, the nature and causes of illness and cure. Why completely? As a society, we have become medicalized. Think “hypnotized”, after all, this is just a suggestion!

Kidding aside, if we can gain enough altitude to look down to see how over the past 100 or so years, or perhaps more accurately since Pasteur’s germ theory was popular, Big Pharma (yes, even back then) jumped at the possibility of having a “pill for every germ”, and if there are millions of germs, this is going to be one hell of a business.

Business is the lens through which Big Pharma has always looked at patients: as a marketplace from which to profit. Alongside this business/industry, have been many doctors totally dedicated to the well-being of their patients while the pharmaceutical companies were totally dedicated to making money.

No doubt, this is probably why Bechamp’s theory of the terrain, the immune system and its health, determined illness or health, not the germ—didn’t become so popular: there just wasn’t enough money in immune-system building as there was in developing drugs for germs.

Just forget prevention. Goldman-Sachs analysis of medical cure versus long-term care of the chronically ill, made the case that the latter is far superior for sustained profits than the former, actually curing disease. We see through this that the medical profession has been wholly co-opted by Wall Street.

For every physical illness, every real-life, upsetting emotion/feeling/sentiment, worry not! There is a pill, vaccine or capsule with drugs of some sort to ‘treat’ it.

Many have recognized these sad facts over time. Could it be that this perspective was suspended by the FDA, CDC, NIH, AMA, WHO and WH for the treatment of Covid-19 or was it accelerated by the lure of multi-billion dollar profits? Robert F. Kennedy, jr. addresses these subjects with scholarship and precision in his most recent best-seller about Dr. Fauci.

A number of European countries, but not the U.S., have recognized the Bhutanese model of the happiness index as key to health and well-being.

From the 50,000-foot view to me, one of the saddest things is the marginalization of Nature from which we all come, to which we all go, and which provides every kind of plant, herb, mud, soil, mineralized water, air, sunshine that we need from beginning to end for our health, happiness, good cheer and well-being.

If self-care were the rule of the day, where people ate real food, drank pure, structured water, slept peacefully and deeply, treated others according to the Golden Rule, smiled and laughed as a rule, made impassioned love as regularly as possible, built loving, bonding relationships which allowed for the release of the love hormone oxytocin, positive attitude daily, gratitude for life as a living, moment-to-moment reality, conflicts resolved with kindness, plenty of movement, singing and dance, we would have a different world and a high level of abounding health and happiness. Herein lies a powerful definition of public health.

We have been led so far down the rabbit hole of allopathic medicine and its systems—insurance, hospital systems, and on—we have, I believe, lost sight of simple systems that nature provides us including the system of the family where there is love, care and nurture, enormous parts of any healing.

Our minds have been driven to make forced choices, as is happening in respect to the vaccine issue of today: to vax or not to vax…I say that is not the question! We have been boxed in to think that there is an allopathic medical answer instead of a natural, organic one. We have been taught to fear viruses instead of understanding what they are, and to cooperate with and befriend them. Evolution biologist Elisabet Sahtouris writes both elegantly and simply about this in her delightful book Bacteria R Us.

To many highly-trained doctors, this may sound like an airy-faery kind of approach for a subject that’s so serious, I understand. But I will remind you that cancer, diabetes and heart disease didn’t or barely exist in indigenous cultures East, West, North and South. It was only when Western diet, culture and medicine took root that these diseases showed up. Yes, malaria and other diseases did and do exist, true enough, but there are also natural remedies for those too. No one group anywhere has answers and knowledge for everything.

Without so many medical interventions, yet willingness to intervene when necessary, and without allowing our food supply to be ‘dominated by Domino’ and other poisons, agriculture by glyphosate and on, all forms of serious profiteering at Public Health expense, and with an integrated understanding of the role of mind, of prayer, focused attention, psychological and emotional states affect bodily health, at a fraction of the expense, without families going bankrupt to pay enormous medical bills even when insured, we’d have a much healthier and happier country and world.

I am aware that the above is riddled with generalizations and there are reasonable perspectives to some extent, counter to these, but the overall points I’d say, have merit. Always welcome other thoughts and perspectives.

No matter, if we were to integrate indigenous perspectives, and those of the Bhutanese, a largely Buddhist culture, and expand our understanding of the possibilities of public health in these ways, let go of the “medicalizing of all”, forget profiteering at every medical spin of the die, we’d have re-visioned public health successfully and would have a much happier, healthier, freer and curiously, and for more people, an even more prosperous society.