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The History of Wellness Models

by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.

Wellness Models of the Past and the New REAL Wellness Model of the Future
Friday August 13, 2010

The wellness movement got a big boost from the spa industry leadership on May 26th of this year. In Istanbul, the Global Spa Summit (GSS) organization released a landmark report entitled, "Spas and the Global Wellness Market." The main finding in this comprehensive document stated that wellness is not a passing fad. It is instead a global marked estimated at $1.9 billion dollars.

In a keynote to European spa executives in Dusseldorf on the 21st of this month, I will explain why this report is invaluable to the spa industry. REAL wellness offerings can be a new revenue source for spas and a benefit to those who patronize them.

Several wellness models are described and illustrated in the GSS report (which, by the way, borrows on an earlier version of this essay). However, there is another model not in the GSS report, a new model that I am offering here for the first time as well as unveiling at the Dusseldorf convention sponsored by the German Wellness Association. 

At the GSS gathering in Turkey, a model of wellness "as an integrated industry cluster with nine core segments" was offered. That model looks like this:

GSS Model of Wellness

This cluster was inspired by the GSS view that three mega-trends will ensure continued growth in wellness. The GSS report provided this trend summary: 

  1. an aging world population
  2. failing conventional medical systems, with consumers, healthcare providers, and governments seeking more cost-effective, prevention-focused alternatives to a Western medical/"sickness" model focused on solving health problems rather than preventing them
  3. increased globalization, with consumers more aware of alternative health approaches via the Internet and the powerful reach of celebrity wellness advocates

There have been several models and a good many definitions of wellness over the years, long before my own models and the one introduced by the GSS report in Turkey.

Halbert L. Dunn, a medical doctor who introduced the phrase "High Level Wellness," created one that looked like a swirling tornado. It can be found in the GSS report.

Jack Travis, another medical doctor who sought only relatively healthy patients who had a desire to get "weller," sketched an Illness/Wellness Continuum to illustrate the relationship of treatment to wellness. He offered 12 dimensions of wellness in a different kind of wellness model he termed a "Wellness Energy System." In time, his simple line drawing came to look like this:

Illnes-Wellness Continuum

I did a version of Travis' model in a later book, which I termed, "the Worseness/Wellness Continuum." (There is no rule that says one can't have a little sport with a wellness model.)

Models take time to construct (as is evident from a glance at the GSS edition) and are of limited interest to non-historians and theoreticians of the wellness movement. This explains why everyone does not craft such things.

The model I developed for my first book, "High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease" (1977, Rodale Press), listed five wellness dimensions in a circle. Self-responsibility was located in the center of that circle, bordered by circles for dimensions representing the wellness dimensions of nutritional awareness, stress management, physical fitness and environmental sensitivity.

Don Ardell's First Wellness Model

A few years later, Bill Hettler, yet another physician, would start the National Wellness Institute and in so doing promote a six-part model, as follows:

National Wellness Institute Model

In 1982, I decided on a more inclusive classification, which appeared in the book, 14 Days to Wellness (New World Library). It depicted self-responsibility (still in the center), nutritional awareness and physical fitness, meaning and purpose, relationship dynamics and emotional intelligence.

Ardell's second model

In the early nineties, in the course of posting five or more essays weekly at the Wellness Center online, it was decided that additional categories seemed helpful for classifying the hundreds of articles that had to be archived. I came up with a system of three overall domains and fourteen skill areas, as shown. This model has been in use continuously for over a decade as a basis for categorizing essays and rendering Wellness Center essays easily accessible in website archives. 

Ardell's third model 

And now, In 2010, I'm pleased to offer my REAL wellness model. REAL is an acronym for reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty. Thus, this model appears as four intertwined circles.  

Ardell's REAL wellness model

 Models are best for visually outlining basic patterns—they are just a visual tool and should not be taken as revelations from on high (be suspicious of such claims). Consider shaping a wellness model that reflects your understanding of the concept. Stay open to possibilities and new learning—that's one of many keys to quality living. What the world needs now are even more wellness models, especially if they lead spa goers, employees, schoolchildren and others to understand effective principles for living wisely, enjoyably and well. 

All the best. 


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