Health care, or healthcare, is the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well being through the services offered by the medical, nursing, and allied health professions. Health care embraces all the goods and services designed to promote health, including “preventive, curative and palliative interventions, whether directed to individuals or to populations”. The organised provision of such services may constitute a health care system. This can include specific governmental organizations such as, in the UK, the National Health Service or a cooperation across the National Health Service and Social Services as in Shared Care. Before the term "health care" became popular, English-speakers referred to medicine or to the health sector and spoke of the treatment and prevention of illness and disease.
In most developed countries and many developing countries health care is provided to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. The National Health Service, established in 1948 by Clement Atlee's Labour government in the United Kingdom, were the world's first universal health care system provided by government and paid for from general taxation. Alternatively, compulsory government funded health insurance with nominal fees can be provided, as in Italy. Other examples are Medicare in Australia, established in the 1970s by the Labor government, and by the same name Medicare was established in Canada between 1966 and 1984. Universal health care contrasts to the systems like health care in the United States or South Africa, though South Africa is one of the many countries attempting health care reform. The United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not provide universal health care.