Human Experience Across the Health-Illness Continuum

Benchmark: Human Experience Across the Health-Illness Continuum

Grand Canyon University: NRS 434VN

Benchmark: Human Experience Across the Health-Illness Continuum

Many models exist regarding health and illness. The two terms health, and illness, are not static. Instead, they are concepts subject to constant change and continual evaluation. Health is a human experience where beliefs and perceptions determine in part a response to health, wellness, illness, and disease. Examination of the health-illness continuum and its relation to the human experience helps to recognize the importance of adaptation to maintain health and well-being.

Today’s healthcare focuses more on disease and illness and less on health and well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO, 2018). Each individual defines his or her own health based on how they feel, are there any symptoms of an illness, and can they function and carry out daily duties. Illness too is highly personal. Only the individual can determine if they are diminished physically, emotionally, intellectually, developmentally or spiritually. Illness may or may not be related to a disease state.

Health is a human experience, not a list of technical diagnoses. Within the human experience is the ultimate life experience of vitality. Vitality is a feeling of being alive and full of energy. A loss in vitality can leave one drained or empty, unable to find motivation, and affecting psychological well-being and physical health. Vitality is not viewed only as a psychological state but also a physical state of bodily functioning (Schlinkert & Koole, 2017).

A state of well-being or wellness is a dynamic goal and a growing process. Decision making is required daily in areas relating to health and encompasses the whole individual. Wellness is a subjective perception of one’s own vitality and well-being but is also described objectively, experienced and measured to be plotted on a continuum (Kozier, 2008).

The Illness-Wellness Continuum developed by Dr. John Travis in the 1970’s measures a persons perceived level of wellness. High-level wellness is on the right end of the continuum while illness or premature death is to the left. The midline of the continuum is a neutral point with no discernible illness or wellness. The theory relates that individuals move back and forth on the continuum daily (Jacko, 2012). Along the continuum is the treatment paradigm to the left of the neutral point. This is where traditional healthcare falls, in treatment and intervention of illness and disease states. The further to the left an individual moves on the continuum, the more healthcare takes over and the patient is doing very little to get well. Traditional medicine can only return the person to the neutral point along the wellness continuum. Once the midline is reached, it is up to the individual to assume responsibility and take the active role in reaching a higher level of wellness (Becker & McPeck, 2013).

Reaching a higher level of wellness invokes seven dimensions. The physical dimension includes the ability to carry out activities, achieve fitness, maintain nutrition and avoid abuses. Social dimensions are how an individual interacts and can they develop and maintain an intimate relationship while expressing emotions and the ability to handle stress involves the emotional dimension. Intellectual dimension relates to the ability to learn and use information. Spiritual dimension involves a belief system or a force that is present and serves to unite. Work-life balance is served through the occupational dimension and the environmental dimension brings the ability to provide health measures that contribute to quality of life and standard of living (Kozier, 2008)

Internal and external factors affect health status, beliefs and practices. Internal factors are biological, such as genetics, age, gender and development, psychological, such as self-concept and mind-body interactions, and cognitive, such as religious beliefs and lifestyle choices. External factors relate to the physical environment, standards of living, family and cultural beliefs, and social support (Kozier, 2008).

Creating an atmosphere of caring in patient care meshes the human experience with the health-illness continuum. Nurses are typically taught to care for patients and not just take care of patients. A determinant of the human experience is feeling loved, safe and connected. As nurses and healthcare providers talk about individualized care, are we mindful to include the patient’s experience or are we just including the patient in technical education and with a sense of authority. Establishment of relationship with the patient is the essence to health promotion (Young & Hayes, 2002). Looking at the dimensions of wellness, it is easy to visualize the importance of the health-illness continuum to forming the relationship between patient and the healthcare team. As the nurse assists the patient in discussing the patient’s views of wellness, a relationship develops that places the patient at the center, focusing on the patient’s choices, learning abilities and preferences, support and belief systems, quality of life standards, and life balance.

In reflecting on illness and wellness regarding my own health, this writer is fully aware, educated and continually growing in health and wellness despite a fifteen-year history with a chronic neurological condition. Factors that contribute to my wellness include a positive forward attitude, healthy eating habits based on a Mediterranean, low carbohydrate diet due to family history of diabetes and heart disease, and some moderate exercise. Options and resources available to assist with this writer’s journey of continued wellness come from within the person. The personal human experience involves resilience to move forward with a positive attitude. With a continued realization of the illness-wellness continuum, there are days that this writer could do better, especially with physical exercise, but remembering when I could not walk and the days were gloomy, the fight back to health and wellness will never have been in vain.


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