Over 80 years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” – would we say this is this the kind of healthcare we are getting in any country today? What if we focused on health as well as healthcare would we see reductions in the burden of disease at a population level?
A new viewpoint in JAMA by Tyler VanderWelle and colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health examines human flourishing and the role assessing it might play in providing a better understanding of human health. In healthcare, today assessment and metrics track clinical markers for diseases such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels to manage risk and reduce progression to the more series sequelae of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
The authors provoke more in-depth measurement at the individual and populations levels on a broader set of life’s dimensions which include the domains of happiness, mental and physical health, meaning and purpose, character, close social relationships, and financial stability. Specific measures delve deeper into human experiences and include assessment of life satisfaction, self-ratings on levels of happiness, overall physical and mental health. Assessing flourishing also includes measures on how much purpose and meaning a person experiences and in their life and how much people worry about finances and their ability to provide food and shelter. Some health systems are looking at the broader life context these questions allude to that encompass the social determinants of health-where you live, work, play, pray, learn matters for your overall health. Healthcare may only contribute 10% to your health.
These questions enable a more profound connection of mind, body, and spirit in the provision of healthcare and break down traditional silos between physical medicine and psychiatry. What if we asked these questions of ourselves? The recent Gallup Global Emotions reports that Americans are more stressed and experiencing more pain as compared to other nations; staggering when the USA is considered one of the World’s wealthiest nations. Recent reports also point to significant social issues impacting health- could a deeper lens into a broader life context allow us to impact health more significantly. The timing seems right to go deeper and address these issues given the promise of technology enabling us to track more data and develop more insights at an individual and population level to impact health and develop new models of care.
Thanks for reading – Trina
(Opinions are my own)
Reimaging Health- Flourishing
Gallup Global Emotions Report