The field and practice of worksite wellness today basically revolves around three terms – health, wellness and wellbeing. Other terms also seen used include: thriving, flourishing, health promotion, optimal living and quality of life. But the big three are health, wellness and wellbeing.
Since these terms are used interchangeably or as synonyms, I have wondered just how different or the same are these terms? When I framed out this question in my mind, I thought it would be simple enough to just look-up their definitions and I would have my answer.
But, boy was I wrong. Definitions only got me so far and not very far at that. As I was reviewing definitions, it occurred to me that worksite wellness programs today are not even necessarily about health, but more about employee health status. These two terms differ. So how do they differ? Based on the definitions and reading I have done health status is a state at a fixed point in time, as opposed to the more global, encompassing concept of health.
What Is Health Status?
The Stedman’s 7th Edition Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing (2012) definition is: “The level of health of an individual person, group or population as assessed by that individual or by objective measures.”
The Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine (2001) defines the state of health as being the “degree to which physical and mental functioning are in equilibrium with the physical, biological and social environment.”
In his 1997 article titled Health Status Assessment, Stephen Wright uses the definition: “A focus on function and somatic sensation at a particular point in time.”
In the Segen’s Medical Dictionary (2012), the definition is: “A generic term referring to the health (good or poor) of a person, group or population in a particular area, especially when compared to other areas or with national data.”
The Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing (2012) definition is: “The level of health of an individual person, a group, or a population as assessed by that individual or by objective measures.”
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, their definition is: “The level of health of the individual, group, or population as subjectively assessed by the individual or by more objective measures.”
The American Thoracic Society definitions are: “Health status is an individual’s relative level of wellness and illness by taking into account the presence of biological or physiological dysfunction, symptoms, and functional impairment. Health perceptions (or perceived health status) are subjective ratings by the affected individual of his or her health status. Some people perceive themselves as healthy despite suffering from one or more chronic diseases, while others perceive themselves as ill when no objective evidence of disease can be found.”
Rice University points out that “there is no single standard measurement of health status for individuals or population groups. Individual health status may be measured by an observer who performs an examination and rates the individual along any of several dimensions, including presence or absence of life-threatening illness, risk factors for premature death, severity of disease, and overall health. Individual health status may also be assessed by asking the person to report his/her health perceptions in the domains of interest, such as physical functioning, emotional well-being, pain or discomfort, and overall perception of health.”
On the Biology Online Website, “the level of health of the individual, group, or population as subjectively assessed by the individual or by more objective measures.” is their listed definition.
When examining and considering definitions, it is important from a conceptual perspective to remember that definitions are only part of the perspective. For conceptual clarity, one also needs to consider context and relevancy as being equally important as areas to focus on as well.