Wellness (alternative medicine)
Wellness is generally used to mean a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of well-being. It has been used in the context of alternative medicine since Halbert L. Dunn, M.D., began using the phrase high level wellness in the 1950s. The modern concept of wellness did not, however, become popular until the 1970s.
Halbert L. Dunn, M.D., began using the phrase high level wellness in the 1950s, based on a series of lectures at a Unitarian Universalist Church in Arlington, Virginia, in the United States. Dunn (196, p. 4) defined wellness as "an integrated method of functioning which is oriented toward maximizing the potential of which the individual is capable. It requires that the individual maintain a continuum of balance and purposeful direction within the environment where he is functioning." He also stated that "wellness is a direction in progress toward an ever-higher potential of functioning" (p. 6). Dunn also described wellness as health being, "much more than the absence of disease remains a cornerstone concept of wellness today." (Dunn, 787, p 7) Dunn saw wellness as hierarchical: there were lower levels of wellness and higher ones, and the aim was to move everyone up from where they started to high-level wellness. (Dunn, 789, p 8)
Alternative approaches to wellness are often denoted by the use of two different phrases: health and wellness, and wellness programs. These kinds of wellness programs offer alternative medicine techniques to improve wellness. Whether these techniques actually improve physical health is controversial and a subject of much debate. James Randi and the James Randi Educational Foundation are outspoken critics of this alternative new age concept of wellness. The behaviors in the pursuit of wellness often include many health related practices, such as making healthy lifestyle changes and utilizing natural therapies.
Wellness, as a luxury pursuit, is found obviously in the more affluent societies because it involves managing the body state after the basic needs of food, shelter and basic medical care have already been met. Many of the practices applied in the pursuit of wellness, in fact, are aimed at controlling the side effects of affluence, such as obesity and inactivity. Wellness grew as a popular concept starting in the 19th century, just as the middle class began emerging in the industrialized world, and a time when a newly prosperous public had the time and the resources to pursue wellness and other forms of self-improvement.
Achieving or maintaining wellness could be determined by individual awareness and ability to measure states of health including mental health, physical activity, nutritional intake, fiscal responsibility, productivity, as well as emergency preparedness and avoiding common pitfalls. Wellness can also be described as a state that combines health and happiness. Thus, those factors that contribute to being healthy and happy will also likely contribute to being well. Factors that contribute to health and happiness have long been recognized, at least since the time of Ancient Greeks. To achieve a state of wellness, one has to work on its determinants. The determinants of wellness are often considered to be: awareness and the initiative to improve one's state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, environmental, social and/or occupational health.
Another major determinant of wellness and health is socio-economic status. The scientific study of this relationship (commonly referred to as the ‘gradient’) between socioeconomic status (SES) and health dates back at least as far as the nineteenth century, when researchers investigated differences in health outcomes among royalty, the landed elite, and the working class in Europe.1 Since then, measures of SES have come to appear regularly in analyses of the determinants of health and mortality. Given that a variety of socioeconomic variables—including income, education, occupation, race, and ethnicity, among others—exhibit similar associations with health, many researchers have come to agree that ‘a broader underlying dimension of social stratification or social ordering is the potent factor’ (Adler et al. 1994: 15). 
Wellness programs vary depending on the target market and who is promoting them. Wellness programs are most commonly promoted in progressive companies and schools along with personal wellness programs marketed directly to health seeking individuals. Wellness programs attempt to facilitate life improvements though recommending positive lifestyle changes. Wellness programs are often pursued by people seeking recovery from an illness or specific health condition or by those interested in improving their overall health.
Supporters of wellness programs may claim there are many factors that contribute to wellness: living in a clean environment, eating healthy food, regular physical exercise, balance in career; family; and relationships, spiritual awareness and some programs include faith-based worship. Faith-based wellness programs may suggest a spiritual component in their models, however, it would be opposition to most secular wellness programs which tend to be inclusive any individual's spiritual beliefs or practices. Working toward a deeper understanding of these issues and the underlying causes of both physiological and psychological disorders are such innovators as Dr. Christopher Jackson (A Path to Wellness), Dr. Bruce Lipton, and Dr. Wayne Dyer.
The aging population participates in wellness programs in order to feel better and have more energy. Wellness programs allow individuals to take increased responsibility for their health behaviors. People often enroll in a private wellness program to improve fitness, stop smoking, or to learn how to manage their weight.
Workplace wellness programs are recognized by more and more companies for their value in improving health and well-being of their employees. They are part of a company's health and safety program. In a study conducted by RAND Health and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, researchers found that approximately half of U.S. employers offer “wellness promotion initiatives”. However, participation is spotty, as the study also showed that only 46 percent of employees who have access to a program undergo clinical screening and/or complete an HRA (Health Risk Assessment). These wellness programs are designed not only to improve employee morale, loyalty, and productivity, but also to lower health insurance costs, medical bills, and other employee compensation costs. They could consist of as little as a gym full of exercise equipment that is available to their employees on company property during the workday, but they may also cover smoking cessation programs, nutrition; weight; or stress management training, nature and outdoors activities, health risk assessments, and health screenings.
Religious organizations often provide food, shelter, clothing, childcare and senior services in the community. Faith-based wellness ministries are simply wellness programs sponsored by the faith-based community, which are similar to those offered by others, but generally also focus on the spiritual, New Age and religious aspects of wellness from the perspective of a particular faith. Here, wellness is viewed as a quest for spiritual wholeness. Robert H. Schuller's be happy Beatitudes, for example, expounds upon the New Testament and presents eight positive principles for fulfillment. New Age guru Deepak Chopra, author of more than 40 books on spirituality and health, offers an alternative and New Age spirituality perspective to wellness.
- Zimmer, Ben (2010-04-16). "Wellness". The New York Times.
- Kirkland, Anna. "What Is Wellness Now?". Journal Of Health Politics & Law.
- Cutler, David. "Socioeconomic Status and Health: Dimensions and Mechanisms". Harvard University.