A first approach to Health

The definition of ‘health’ provided by the World Health Organization seems incomplete when discussed in the context

of the remote and mountains regions. As the mountainous environments and humans are in mutual interaction, the need for the broadening of the definition of ‘health’ becomes demanding.

In a discussion on health in mountainous and remote areas, the primary approach and the primary thoughts arising refer to the structures ought to be developed so as prove efficient and truly contribute to the lives of those inhabiting areas away to urban centers, hence in distance to high technology. As a consequence, the initial discussion revolves around the quantity and the quality of those services, as well as the human resources which will serve in the given structures, in order to guarantee the equal providing of services, in relation to those provided in the urban and valley centers.

On the other hand, however, such a discussion should not restrict itself or tum exclusively to those service structures and their technological equipment. The discussion on health in the mountainous areas should primarily include the diverse ways of thinking and perception of the symptoms of health and its nature, along with the factors that cause them. The anthropological character given to health and disease in those remote areas has been met with special approaches and references in the relevant bibliography. Anthropologists, sociologists and health professionals have turned their interest and their research towards illness or health behavior.

A series of cultural, religious, psychological and social factors seem to interact and influence the resident of the mountainous areas, having an impact on his/her his views on health and illness and accordingly on his pursuit of health services or other indigenous healing services, a field of extreme importance in the area of health and care. Besides the importance of this anthropological study of health and illness behavior, mainly in regard to the survey of the cultural aspects of such a definition in a mountainous environment, of particular importance is also the study of the different interpretations of the symptoms by the residents ofthose areas themselves, which can lead as a consequence to the delay in diagnosing and to the inefficient therapy.

The discussion on health in those areas gets increasingly interesting when health services but also the outcome of the various therapeutic means are examined not on an individual level but on a family level, and especially on the broad family level. Families in the mountainous and isolated regions of Crete appear to consist the sole source of knowledge and infonnation throughout time, but also a means for the redistribution and production of knowledge, especially of the knowledge of self-care. That knowledge is delivered to the successors and their off-spring, creating thus concrete links between the members, especially in cases of crisis, and particularly in the case of yearly diseases or invalidation or loss of a relative or friend.

Finally, epidemiological research has proved that the frequency of yearly illnesses is different to the urban and rural areas influencing their own natural evolution, since mainly behaviorist factors appear to influence their evolution.

All of the above underline the necessity to discuss the subject of health in a broader context than usually discussed by the traditional medical schools, searching for interdisciplinary approaches, which include anthropology, sociology, education sciences and of course, all the health and care sciences.


The mingling of such many methods and techoiques from all the above fields and scientific subjects appears to be the best combination for the analysis of the defining factors of health and their translation into education, research and clinical practice. These reasons make even more demanding the discussion of the subject of health in the broader scientific, cultural, historical and biopsychosocial context, which the initiative for the University of the Mountains creates.