By: Jeff Winkel, MSS
If wellness was a superhero, it would be a combination of Iron Man and Captain America. It is impressive, lucrative, popular, innovative, great leadership, and is good for the nation. That said, as a wellness professional and consumer, I recognize wellness, just like superheroes, has flaws.
I see an industry of businesses, organizations, and individuals splintered, disjointed, and surrounded by public confusion, all of which make it difficult for people to figure out how to achieve the very essence that is wellness: optimal well-being. This problem does not exist on the shoulders of the professionals delivering wellness, but with the industry as a whole, or to my point, a lack of being whole.
Consider this: a 2018 Parade-Cleveland Clinic survey showed 63percent surveyed believe there’s too much conflicting information out there, and 66 percent want help figuring out the best methods for improving their health. (“What Americans Get (and Don’t Get) About Being Healthy Now, Highlights From a Parade-Cleveland Clinic Survey”, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-americans-get-and-dont-get-about-being-healthy-now/)
This tells me the majority of consumers don’t have a clue how to reach optimal well-being. More importantly, they don’t have the confidence in the industry to know who to turn to or trust in to help figure it out. We have plenty of organizations in the industry doing a great job to help us be better professionals, but what we don’t have is an organization that has dedicated attention and focus into unifying the industry. Though there is some semblance of unity and direction, it has manifested through self-interest, self-preservation, or self-capitalization, and not approached from a high enough macro-view.
To provide lasting reform for the betterment of the industry, creating a centralized voice is quintessential. Think back to some of Stan Lee’s last Avenger movies where so many great heroes were assembled. Individually they struggled to save the world. They had divided philosophies, even they though had the same end goal and struggled to come together as a team. They struggled so much, they splintered and even dissolved as a team at a few points. It wasn’t until they united that they reached their full potential.
I was listening to a national sports TV and radio talk show host recently discuss a problem with college football not having a governing body like there is in pro sports. Because of this, each conference was left on their own, free to do their own thing (successfully or not). But for the good of the sport, the schools, the athletes, and the fans, there needs to be some entity looking out for everyone’s best interest. Enter the pandemic, and the struggles unfold.
The same premise holds true for wellness. The industry needs some entity looking out for everyone’s best interest. If there is no common image and standards for the industry, if the general public remains confused, disheartened, and un-trusting of the industry, people will seek alternatives. It opens the door and creates opportunities for businesses to enter the market and use wellness as a brand that don’t truly represent what wellness is. Furthermore, it limits our influence as an industry. All of this will cause further confusion and splintering of the wellness industry, makes us more vulnerable, and could potentially negatively alter the industry, as we know it.
There is such great breadth and depth in the wellness industry, it’s critical for us to come together by gaining support of the players and the businesses in the wellness industry and create this central voice as a Self-Regulating Organization (SRO). In doing so, it will allow us to gain control and protection of our industry by becoming a unified powerful influence with the public, private, and governmental sectors. It will allow us to manage a common mission and portray a common image that can be recognized and trusted by the public, while reaching a broader more diverse population. This is not intended to control or govern over any of the Dimensions of Wellness, but to lay the infrastructure of how they interact and promote wellness as a whole. It is needed to fill in the gaps and hold the industry together as one driving force forward. After all, if we can’t bring together all the dimensions of wellness, how can we expect consumers to?
Part of this infrastructure also means addressing the fact we need to amend an incomplete wellness model/wheel and our view of the wellness continuum. What makes it incomplete? One of the industries greatest opposing forces, modern healthcare/Western medicine is missing, and needs to become one of wellness’ allies.
Wellness needs the healthcare field to complete a true holistic approach towards optimal well-being. As wellness professionals, we can no longer talk about the wellness continuum and the illness/sickness continuum as two separate polar philosophies. Everyone has the potential to become sick or diseased, no matter how much care and preventative measures we take, and when we do, we need healthcare.
COVID-19, or inherited diseases, are prime examples. Every time we talk about the two continuums separately, we drive a wedge between healthcare and wellness. Adopting healthcare into the wellness model/wheel, with “Medical” as a dimension, does not mean we the public can adopt an unhealthy lifestyle and just wait or for healthcare to save us. As consumers, we cannot expect so much from healthcare and so little from ourselves. We need to be proactive. We need to prevent and cure at the same time. “Cure” sometimes means natural remedies, and sometimes it means allopathic care. But going forward, we need both industries to communicate the same message.
The healthcare system needs wellness, as well. In a 2018 white paper by NRC Health, they stated, “Healthcare organizations should be focusing on enhancing the value they offer their patients. By finding new ways to connect with consumers, healthcare organizations can begin to earn back the trust that has been eroded over the last few decades. This starts with pursuing a deep, holistic understanding of patients wants and needs.” (“White Paper: The Consumer Confidence Crisis”, NRCHealth.com, NRC Health, http://nrchealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Consumer-Confidence-White-Paper.pdf)
The fact that wellness is fundamentally structured with dimensions makes it is easy to plug in “Medical”. Conceptually, wellness exemplifies the quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” By adding “Medical” as one of its Dimensions, wellness will exponentially become greater. Healthcare is not set up this way and would be far more difficult to integrate all that is wellness into its current model.
One way to help bridge the two industries is by creating and setting in place a proactive medical/wellness system to willingly and seamlessly deliver wellness through the healthcare system. This would be accomplished by incorporating licensed degreed professionals, Wellness Medical Practitioners (WMP), working with the Primary Care Physician (PCP) to deliver this. For this to occur, though, we need a wellness SRO that is on the same level with the American Medical Association (AMA).
In short, how I envision this working is a PCP, a WMP, and the patient working together to assess the patient’s current state of well-being, create an over-arching prescription for well-being, followed by continued support and adjustments throughout the length of the prescription.
The patient initially meets with the PCP and is then lead through an evaluation process by the WMP. This process consists of a series of tests, covering each wellness dimension. The goal of the evaluation and tests is to determine:
- the patient’s current level of wellness in each component.
- a baseline of the patient’s physiological well-being.
- the presence of any current or potential illnesses/diseases.
The WMP gathers the test results and creates a report of findings. The results are reviewed by the WMP and the PCP for any markers in any area that falls outside of the established norms. The norms would be established by the PCP/WMP’s office, or standard acceptable guidelines in the industry.
If the patient’s evaluation has no significant markers, then the wellness report findings are shared by the WMP with the patient. The WMP and the patient review the results, establish general goals, and create an individualized wellness prescription.
If the patient’s evaluation has any significant markers that fall outside of the established norms, then the wellness report findings are shared with the patient.
- Markers that are of high risk to the patient may result in further specialist testing and evaluation.
- Markers that are not a high risk to the patient will result in the patient proceeding as normal while monitoring the specific markers closely.
The role of WMP continues by assisting in finding and coordinating various modalities per the set goals/prescription, and then following up with the patient at specified intervals, as established in the prescription.
Packaging the proactive medical/wellness system and the Wellness Medical Practitioner together helps the patient’s understanding, effectiveness, and compliance in their journey to optimal well-being. This, along with the strength of a centralized voice, can be the springboard of infrastructure the industry needs moving forward.
Jeff Winkel is a wellness professional with over 30 years of experience. Jeff has a BS in Psychology from the University of Central Florida, and a MSS in Fitness Management from the United States Sports Academy.