The Seven Domains of Women's HealthJul 29, 2014
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Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones: For a long time I've been listening to women tell me about whether they feel well or not. In fact, they have taught me that their sense of wellness doesn't come from their blood pressure, or their Pap smear, or their mammogram, or their cholesterol, things that we talk a lot about in our visits. Their sense of wellness comes partly from these things, but in fact it comes from many other domains of their life. Of course, the most famous line is a woman saying you're only as happy as your least happy child.
Many people have been looking at what it means to be well and realized there are probably a number of domains, kinds of things that contribute to wellness. At the University of Utah Center of Excellence in Women's Health we've defined the seven domains of health mostly from listening to our patients.
Number one, physical health. Of course, physical wellness is important. Our ability to maintain a healthy quality of life and get through our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress, our ability to fight off diseases, these are important to us. The behaviors such as diet, and exercise, and screening that involve those things are important. Physical health certainly is important in our sense of wellness.
Number two, social health. This gets back to that you're only as happy as your least happy child. Our social health is the ability to relate to and connect with other people in our world and maintain healthy and positive relationships with family, and friends, and co-workers. This all adds to our social health.
Number three is emotional health. Although emotional health can be a function of our social health, emotional health is the ability to understand ourselves internally and cope with the challenges life can bring. The ability to acknowledge and share feelings of anger, or fear, or sadness, or stress, and hope, and love, and joy, all these abilities to recognize our own emotional state and respond to it in a healthy way is part of what contributes to emotional health.
Four, environmental health, is our ability to recognize and be responsive to our environment and the challenges the environment might provide for us. Clearly, people in developing countries have difficulty with clean water, and that may be the number one issue in their environmental health. For us here in Utah it may be our clean air, or it may be that your own home isn't a healthy place because of mold or because of other aspects in your home that aren't healthy. The environmental health is based on the ability to recognize our quality of our air and the water and the land that surrounds us and in our homes in our communities.
Number five is intellectual. That's the ability to feel like we are really have the intellectual capacity to deal with an increasingly complex and fast world. Do we have the intellectual tools? Do we have the capacity to be informed? Do we have the ability to seek new challenges to stretch our minds? Are we worried about our cognitive ability as we get older? Is this distressing as we think we might be losing our ability to remember or process new things? How about that new iPhone? You figured that you can figure that one out?
Number six is financial health. This is kind of tied in with occupational health. It's the ability to get personal fulfillment in our jobs, in our chosen career fields, and have enough finances to meet the basic needs of ourselves and our family without undue stress and worry about money.
Number seven and probably the most important is our spiritual health. We know that people in the face of substantial emotional stress, social stress, even physical health stress maintain a sense of wellness and connectedness and peace if their spiritual health is strong. How do we establish peace and harmony in our lives, and develop a sense of congruency between our values and actions, and realize common purpose that binds us together with our community, our world, maybe even our universe?
Finding meaning in life is part of our spiritual wellness. That may be even paramount particularly in people for whom those other domains of their health are troubled. We find many people with significant physical challenges who overcome the sense of defeat by having a very strong sense of their spiritual health.
There they are, all seven: physical health, social health, emotional health, occupational and financial health, environmental health, intellectual health, and spiritual health. These seven domains or dimensions of our health are important as an integration of our sense of wellness.
If you want to hear more you may want to Google the Center of Excellence in Women's Health. Check on the seven domains of health, and you can see a presentation in all of these domains by experts in this field.
In future podcasts on The Scope we're going to take the seven domains of health and give you some resources that will both help you strengthen each domain but even assess your wellness in each domain. So, stay tuned and we'll do it in the future on The Scope.
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