How Do You Define Health?

Blogger: Abbie Clary, Vice President, Central Region Director, Health | Chicago, IL, USA
July 27, 2016

Health is so personal to all of us and each of us defines it in our own way. Our approach to health is influenced by age, race, culture, family, zip code, friends… the list goes on and on. Words that come to mind for me are happiness, less stress, good food, laughing, sleeping well, hugging my kids, having goals and passions, exercising, being a healthy weight without obsessing over it, self awareness and self confidence. So, the question that arises is how do I achieve this definition of health and who will help me?

With the Affordable Care Act have come changes in the way providers must connect with their patients. From my perspective, they must consider how health is defined by each of us, their patients and consumers, and find ways to help us get there. They cannot do it all, much of the onus is on us, but they can help.

So, what are other perspectives of health? The World Health Organization’s definition of health has not changed in 68 years: “a state of complete mental, physical and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition resonates as it is the all encompassing definition. But patients and consumers have begun to add personal touches to what it really means to have well-being—and organizations are looking for ways to help us achieve it.

While the definition of health hasn’t changed in nearly seven decades, the healthcare industry—like the world around us—is undergoing rapid and transformational change. Medical advancements alone are staggering: We've developed vaccines and eradicated diseases. We've transplanted almost every organ and have 3D printed prosthetics. We've even mapped the human genome and discovered how to personalize therapies to individual genetic makeup.

And while we have made enormous strides in some areas, we are just beginning to tackle the details of what well-being is to each of us, those parts that go beyond generic and become personal. Chronic and lifestyle-related illnesses are on the rise—reaching near epidemic rates. Today, obesity and high blood sugar have overtaken lack of food as the top health risks. These diseases can be managed by medicine, but are “cured” by education, behavior change, and wellness. That means health providers need to fundamentally shift the way they think about and deliver care to achieve wellness.

That’s why we created Delta—a book spotlighting how healthcare organizations can not only embrace change, but thrive within our ever-changing world and drive that change in the unique ways their patient population need and demand. We chose to call this book “Delta”  because the word means change—and we felt it underscores how changing patient needs, and new experience and engagement models are converging to force us to rethink the definition of health and therefore the implementation of healthcare. Patients are evolving, and so must the approach to their care.

Download Delta to read more of my colleagues’ definitions of health starting on p. 77. We hope you’ll join the conversation by sharing your own definition of health in the comments section.

Check back for more of our Delta blog series: