Health is a complex concept. And you do want to understand how to best address it, correct?
I have previously written that health and wellness are two clearly different concepts. As a result, I see the worksite wellness programs of today as not really being wellness programs at all, but really being employee health status management programs. If you accept this premise, this means that as a worksite wellness professional you should have a clear understanding about the nature of health. Do you think you do?
Health, like wellness, can have many different definitions. Again, like wellness, there appears to be agreement around the idea that health is a complex concept which has several different determinants. The determinants of health can be classified into several broad categories: policymaking, social factors, health services, individual behavior and biology and genetics. Health is often referred to as being a complex biopsychosocial concept.
Breaking the term biopsychosocial down into its component parts suggests the term consists of three major components: biological, psychological and social. So how do these component parts each contribute to an individual’s health?
Biological – The biological and genetic or physical (physiological) determinants of health, as well as individual behaviors, are generally the focus of most worksite wellness programs today. Programming often takes the form of health risk identification and measurement (commonly called risk reduction) and disease or condition management strategies. These speak to the biology and genetics of health.
Two common measurement tools used in worksite wellness programs today are health risk assessments and biometric screenings which are designed to measure and categorize health risks and basic biological body measures respectively. The basic biological measures serve as markers for an individual’s health status. Ideally, these measures should be within what has been determined to be a normal clinical range.
Psychological – It is now generally accepted that our brain and our body in separable. There is an undeniable connection between the mind and the body. While the exact mechanism may not yet be clearly understood, there is agreement cognition, thoughts, attitude and feelings influence our health. Our thoughts and feelings do have a physical impact on our body. They influence our nervous system, our immune system, our hormone system and subsequently our health.