By Paul E. Terry, PhD
Editor, The Art of Health Promotion
Chief Science Officer, StayWell
There is a tremendous interest among employers, who have sponsored wellness programs for many years, to broaden the impact of their efforts by focusing more on their culture in addition to their support of individual health habit improvements. Though most wellness practitioners have training in both ecological health and behavioral health approaches, it remains that most of the focus for many years has been on individuals and their lifestyles. As a result, the “HRA” has been the dominant catalyst for program planning and evaluation and culture measurement is still in the nascent stages. One thing more troublesome than the lack of integration of environmental- and person-level metrics is the segregated approach advocated by some health promotion practitioners. “Start with culture” a few say, as if individuals are simply a byproduct of their eco-systems. Worse, a few suggest waylaying individual health metrics in deference to measures of engagement or purpose, as if they represent some transcendent proxy for health promotion.
I can think of few surer ways to make the field of health promotion practice irrelevant than decoupling cultural, psycho-social and health factors. Indeed, if a case is to be made for the benefit of building a culture of health, it will be through the concomitant analysis of environmental metrics and health risk data that encompasses the time-honored definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual, intellectual and social health promotion.
In this issue of The Art of Health Promotion, Dr. Sheryl Niebuhr and Dr. Jessica Grossmeier offer insightful recommendations about how health promotion practitioners can bridge the divide from a field that has spent more time focusing on individuals than it has on improving what they call “workforce capability.”