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What It Means to Be A Healthy Woman

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What It Means to Be A Healthy Woman

Oct 05, 2017

Health is more than just your physical wellbeing. Health is more than how many steps you’ve walked or how many calories you’ve eaten for the day. The Center of Excellence in Women’s Health at University of Utah Health defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.” Women’s expert Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones talks about the seven domains of women’s health and why it's actually unhealthy to be obsessed with your health.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Jones: What is health, and what does it mean to be a healthy woman? We're going to talk about that. This is Dr. Kirtly Jones from Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Utah Health, and this is The Scope.

Announcer: Covering all aspects of women's health, this is The Seven Domains of Women's Health with Dr. Kirtly Jones on The Scope.

Dr. Jones: In 1948, the World Health Organization, WHO, defined health with this phrase that's still used today. "Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Well, that's great. I think most of us would agree with that.

But in 1986, WHO went a little further, and I think this is important here, "A resource for everyday life not the objective of living, health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources as well as physical capacities." And that's a little more nuanced. We all know people who are completely focused on their health, they exercise all the time, they talk about their diet, they talk about their exercise as if their health were the only focus of their lives.

And in this 1986 phrase, they did say that health is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. So the WHO suggest the following factors may have an impact on health. Where you live, it's harder to feel healthy if you're in a combat zone. The state of the surrounding environment, it's hard to be healthy if you're living, maybe in the middle of a hurricane or a flooded area. Your genetics, your income, your education level, it's kind of hard to feel well and healthy if you're constantly struggling for food or to pay your bills. Your education level as I said, and relationships with friends and family.

Now, I'm a fan of all things Canadian, although I'm an all-American girl and love my country, but the Canadians are so pragmatic, and they say, "To reach a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, an individual or group must be able to identify and to realize aspirations to satisfy needs and to change or cope with the environment." Health is therefore seen as a resource of everyday life, not the objective of living. They kind of stole that from the WHO. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources as well as physical capacities.

The scope at the University of Utah, Center of Excellence in Women's Health embraces the framework of the seven domains of women's health. Women who have told us that they have a very holistic concept of what it means to be healthy, the seven domains of women's health are spiritual, physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and you guys are all doing that by listening, environmental, financial, and spiritual health.

So how are you doing these areas? You probably have a very good idea of how you're doing. But if you want to take another look, Google, "University of Utah Center of Excellence in Women's Health," on the left of the site, you will see a box that says "Seven Domains." Click on that box then click on "Explore your seven domains." This will take you to a place where you can check out what we think are important aspects of being healthy in these domains.

You'll need to offer your age and education and ethnic background, but nothing that identifies you, so you can tell the truth. When you get to the health section, don't lie about your weight. When you get to how much you drink, don't lie about your drinking and smoking. When you get to the part about your social environment at home, tell the truth. And you can, again, get some aspects of your seven domains.

So I did that this morning and came up pretty good. You have a pile with seven pieces and each piece will be green which means you're good to go, mostly. You're yellow which means you've got some issues. And you're red which means you need to think about stuff. So I came out green in all domains except environmental and financial health.

Well, let me talk about this, I have to defend myself. In the environmental health, I got red because I don't have a sidewalk in my neighborhood, I can't walk to the store, there are no buses nearby, and I clicked that I have unsafe chemicals in my house because I have a bottle of bleach. So those four things put me in the unhealthy category in the environment. But so I live in a little neighborhood in a canyon that doesn't have sidewalks and the buses don't come up. I think I actually have a healthier environment than that, but those things are, at least some people consider important. To be able to walk, to feel safe in your environment, be able to walk to places, to playgrounds. And I have a playground, I guess in my backyard, but not an official one.

Now, what about my financial health? I'm retired and a lot of the questions may not be that applicable for retired people. So they want you to be able to have a financial goal, and I guess my financial goal might be to keep retiring, so that's my financial goal. But I got a yellow for that. Anyway, for those who think about health and have defined health as the ability of the body to adapt to new threats and illnesses, the concept of resilience is really important.

And I think that, and many of us think about when we care for women that resilience allows us to think about women who might even be quite ill with chronic diseases as healthy. Meaning, they cannot modify the actual disease process because that's out of their control. But what they can modify is their social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, economic, and intellectual aspects of their approach to their illness.

So being healthy is not the final goal of life, it's a state that allows you to live more fully and be more resilient. With these more holistic definitions, even women with chronic illnesses can be healthy. I hope for all of you, a state of physical, mental, and social wellbeing not as an end in itself, but as a resource for a full and healthy life. And thanks for joining us on The Scope.

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