By: Chuck Gillespie, National Wellness Institute CEO

Wellness initiatives traditionally fail when they are not truly comprehensive and do not positively engage your targeted audiences. National Wellness Institute considers a wellness initiative as comprehensive only if it includes these six minimum criteria:

  • Measures factors beyond health outcomes
  • Meets multicultural competency criteria
  • Represents four of the 6 Dimensions of Wellness that expand beyond a physical-only wellness program
  • Is not a paper-only program or a tech-only program
  • Meets people who truly need help where they are in their journey—one size does NOT fit all
  • Are you evolving in a way to function optimally learn and grow

Dr. Halbert Dunn, who is considered the originator of the modern wellness movement, stated in a 1959 article titled High Level Wellness for Man and Society, “How do we distinguish and classify degrees or levels of wellness? What are the effects of age, sex, and race on these levels? In what ways can we recognize a level in and of itself so, as to be reasonably sure we are dealing with a homogeneous group?” The foundation of the modern wellness movement is rooted in multicultural competency, and it is time to reimagine wellness with that origin in mind.

National Wellness Institute’s Multicultural Wellness Wheel is designed to support wellness practitioners and related stakeholders in broadening their outlook as it relates to the concepts of high-level wellness. The Wheel addresses applied multicultural competency and the needs and goals of individuals and families. It also provides a guide for the development of diverse workplaces, well communities and civic infrastructures. Learn more about the Multicultural Wellness Wheel at

Wellness champions must develop and apply multicultural competencies by becoming aware of their own personal assumptions about human behavior, values, bias, stereotypes, and personal limitations. Practitioners learn who they are as “cultural beings” and how cultural socialization has shaped their worldview and their ability to work effectively with culturally diverse populations.

A culturally-skilled practitioner is one who actively attempts to understand the worldview of their culturally different clients without negative judgments and shows respect and appreciation for human differences.

A culturally-skilled practitioner is mindful of actively developing and practicing culturally appropriate intervention strategies and working appropriately within diverse communities.

Think about a very simple wellness associated program that has been implemented thousands of times—a daily steps challenge. Simple, right? Download a smartphone app, set up a pre-determined number of steps each day, build out a leaderboard to show who are the top step leaders, incentivize people to meet the minimum number of steps for an 8-week period of time. Done! Before getting this simple program started, you hopefully asked some very basic multiculturally competent questions (and they are not necessarily all of them you should ask):

  1. Does everyone have a smart phone to download the app? (economic bias)
  2. Have I made accommodations for individuals with physical disabilities or chronic health conditions who cannot participate? (able-ism)
  3. Is the steps challenge going to be uncomfortable to those individuals who are less physically fit to attempt to go against others who are already exceeding the steps goals before the program even begins? (fitness bias)
  4. Do the incentives/rewards offered provide encouragement to everyone or just to a specific population? Even more so, do the incentives encourage those who you want to be encouraged to participate? (motivation bias)
  5. Are there external environmental constraints that will their limit ability to earn steps? (geographic bias)
  6. Will this challenge, even though it is voluntary, make some people feel obligated to participate simply because of the incentive being offered? (economic bias)
  7. Did we schedule the challenge during a religious time that will cause some to not be able to meet their daily challenge on certain days? (religious bias)
  8. Is the challenge culturally bias? (racial/gender/religious/geographic bias)

These eight questions do not even go into deeper conversations needed about other systemic barriers that need to be considered. A comprehensive wellness initiative to promote high-level wellness outcomes requires strategic thinking and an implementation strategy focused on building programs that meet a desired goal. The only way to accomplish the desired goal is to ensure that all individuals feel welcome to participate.

As the National Wellness Institute rolled out its pledge on social injustice, we also rolled out some key initiatives to lead the change: High-Level Wellness Through Multicultural Competency course goes live in August and in partnership with High-Level Wellness Guidebook: Championing Wellness will be available to members later this year. Our Community Impact Series will identify key success factors, tools, resources, and trainings for individuals to impact their community, workplace and even themselves. It begins with a simple focus, and that is to understand how to think, act and do in a strategic, multiculturally competent way. Let’s lead the change, together!