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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

Moving Toward Global Wellness: Where We Are Versus Where The Wellness Movement Might Need To Go (Part Three)

Tuesday March 4, 2008


In the introduction to this series, I described wellness as a philosophy founded on personal responsibility and quality of life. The concept has multiple dimensions and skill areas, as well as varied definitions and interpretations.

Now, for the first time, organized efforts are underway by the National Wellness Institute and leading wellness promoters outside the US to promote quality of life globally, in a manner beyond the traditional medical model of UNREAL wellness. The hope by some involved in this effort, including yours truly, is to see emerge elsewhere a form of wellness promotion much more ambitious than seen here, in America, in our 30-year history of wellness promotion.

It is no longer satisfying to offer wellness as a prevention-based, disease focused, cost reduction oriented risk management series of programs. Nor is it sufficient anymore to employ the term in an omnibus way for treatments of a holistic nature, or for spa or other product marketing. Instead, we have an opportunity to think of wellness as a philosophy for advancing health AND much more, including organizational effectives, quality of life, science and rational thinking, human rights, the pursuit of happiness, personal satisfaction, better relationships, improved decision making and successfully looking for love, meaning and exuberant living. For starters. The issues facing human populations are too important to settle for less.

To paraphrase JFK, it is time to ask not what wellness has meant so far, but what it can become on a global scale in the years ahead.

Frank Rich, in a New York Times Op-Ed column recently (February 3, 2008), quoted Richard Goodwin on JFK's challenge in the 1960 campaign for the Democratic nomination for president: "He had to touch the secret fears and ambivalent longings of the American heart, divine and speak to the desires of a swiftly changing nation - his message grounded on his own intuition of some vague and spreading desire for national renewal...Kennedy needed two things. He needed poetry, and he needed a country with some desire, however vague, for change."

Well, wellness promoters need a rallying point - and social advancement might be a vital part of it. Other parts might include:

All this would not deny the value and merits of physical fitness, sound nutrition, stress management or other wellness initiatives to date, but quality of life requires so much more. Everyone who cares about and is affected by the great issues of our day has a personal stake in REAL wellness matters (more so than with disease management and risk reduction corporate programming). REAL wellness, I maintain, is a philosophy and mindset that addresses the concerns and issues noted so far in this essay. After all, who does not care about such things? I'm sure JFK did, and I believe we as wellness promoters should care today.

With the advent of global wellness leadership and new directions abroad, the profession is at a crossroads. One road leads to proven ways to address the needs of corporations for moderating costs and increasing profitability; the other to quality of life promotions for people everywhere. The latter represents an interpretation of the wellness philosophy nearer to the original notions of Halbert L. Dunn more than half a century earlier, as well as my own suggested applications in the mid-70's. (Some of this kind of agenda was expressed in my first book, High Level Wellness: An Alternative To Doctors, Drugs And Disease, Rodale, 1976). It is also consistent with the World Health Organization's "Prerequisites for Health" identified in 1986 in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. The fundamental conditions and resources for health listed in the Ottawa Charter are peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable eco-system, sustainable resources, social justice and equity. Thus, this call for a shift from ordinary wellness American-style focused on medical matters and physical well-being is not really radical or new. It's just a bit of an expansion of a mandate already articulated by visionary leaders all over the world.

When we speak of global wellness, therefore, we should be clear that the subject is quality of life, not medical concerns, life extension, physical fitness, stress management or nutrition. Sure, these are important matters that can and must be addressed, but the larger focus of wellness must be clear. In this respect, wellness promoters, like JFK, can recruit poetry to speak for universal longings. A wellness mindset can and should be a vehicle for renewal in the face of current fears, concerns, longings and desires in a rapidly changing world.

In the next and final essay on this theme, an agenda consistent with this direction will be sketched. Meanwhile, be well and look on the bright side of life.

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: applied wellness

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