Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Healthy Initiative of Value

The Healthiest State Initiative, announced here in Iowa by Governor Branstadt, hopes to rank Iowans as the healthiest in America.   This initiative is moving ahead with the “Start  Somewhere” kick-off walk that was held October 7 at various locations around the state.  Similar initiatives are in process around the country.

To get oriented, I looked at the initiative website, which states: “According to the 2010 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, Iowa is #19 in the nation when it comes to being physically, emotionally and mentally healthy. … It’s not just physical health, though that’s part of it. The World Health Organization tells us that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or illness.”

The overall index for America has fluctuated around 66 out of 100 for the past four years with my state, Iowa, slightly above average at around 67 and the healthiest state, Hawaii at around 71.  It seems that a major change in approach is needed to raise the level of health.

I have been wondering where the program is that actually addresses health in all phases of life.  Health reform discussions centered on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have focused on paying for the ever rising cost of insurance for sick care.  Although that is an important discussion, I’ve waited for the question to arise as to what health is and what it means to care for it.  Doesn’t that question need better answers before trying to make a difference in health reform?

The definition of health used in the initiative transcends the condition of absence of disease or illness to include emotional and mental health as well as physical.  In other words, it is looking beyond the body to include qualities of happiness, contentment, mental sharpness and emotional stability.  These are spiritual and mental qualities.  It makes sense to me.  How can we be considered healthy if we are not feeling whole? 

It is interesting to think of health as linked to our spiritual nature.  I associate spirituality with fundamental intelligence, inspiration, and vitality that reach toward the divine.  For me, spirituality is more than just another phase of health.   It is a starting point for well being.

By addressing spiritual needs, a health care approach can go all the way to the source of sustainable well being.  By also addressing mental and emotional needs, this expansive approach is one that I can feel good about.

I have studied the relationship between health and spirituality for years with useful outcomes such as no longer needing the eyeglasses I had worn for over 40 years.  Now, for the first time in my life, I have a driver’s license with no restriction.  No expense, ready access, healthy results.  For me, spiritual care has become my primary system of health care.

It appears that the Healthiest State Initiative intends to look beyond whether individuals have access to medical insurance toward identifying a range of factors that contribute to well being and improving engagement with them.  The intent of this initiative sounds like a useful direction to me, especially since it includes not only the physical body, but also the spiritual qualities of well being.

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