What is health?

This article was published in The West End Times December 17, 2011.

I talk about it all of the time and realize it might mean different things to different people. Because my background in healthcare was in hospitals for many years, the health care world seemed to be around sickness. But health is so much more than the absence of disease. This has been easier to understand for the past 15 years being involved in homecare. People spend most of their time out of hospitals but all we hear about and spend money on is hospital care. The Canada Health Act covers medical care in hospitals. There is no mention of community or home care where the HEALTH part takes place and should be supported.

People have to deal with so many situations, circumstances and often tragedies and yet they do so in healthy ways. On the other hand we hear about those who look healthy but they behave in such unhealthy ways such as such as gambling away their salaries, bullying in school yards or on the internet, drinking and driving and on and on. I am sure we can all think of examples of friends and family who work together and support each other when one of them has been diagnosed with cancer or ALS or some other devastating disease. They seem so strong, so healthy. We probably all also see examples of problems and stress within families and serious arguments and even abuse…very unhealthy behaviors.

Where is our health care system in these situations? Where is the support for the healthy behaviors to make sure they remain healthy? Where is the support for the families when things seem to be going horribly wrong? Do we wait for the disasters?

We’ve been hearing about lots of hardships and even killings and suicides. It is hard to be in the healthcare world and understand what we are doing about any of this. We spend lots of money. We fix broken legs. We diagnose and discharge people to homes and then what? What about the health of our society? These are stressful times. Have we lost sight of what is important? I worry that we have and that the healthcare system could be doing so much more to support those who need a little help to prevent unhealthy ways of coping. We also have to address the bullying, violence and abuse issues. How did we get to this lack of healthcare?? We focus on sick care and disease care. Where’s the Health?

It seems as if we still have work to do on our system. As the New Year comes we need to continue to push for a better way of caring. In the meantime we need to understand our own health needs. The Holiday Season is here and though it can be fun as we prepare and anxiously wait to be with loved ones, family and friends, it can be stressful and more work added to our already busy lives. Take care of yourselves and maybe lower the bar a bit on expectations. Maybe a little less food preparation and a little more time to just gather and celebrate. Ask for help. Share the load. This is not always easy when already established traditions are hard to change but we should just take the time to think about what is important. Think about how everything we do affects our health? Enjoy the season. Happy holidays to all.