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What Is Worksite Wellness All About? – A Series – What Is Health Status? (Consider This!)

The field and practice of worksite wellness today basically revolves around three terms –  health , wellness and wellbeing. Other terms also seen used include: thriving, flourishing,  health  promotion, optimal living and quality of life. But the big three are  health , wellness and wellbeing.

Since these terms are used interchangeably or as synonyms, I have wondered just how different or the same are these terms? When I framed out this question in my mind, I thought it would be simple enough to just look-up their definitions and I would have my answer.

But, boy was I wrong. Definitions only got me so far and not very far at that. As I was reviewing definitions, it occurred to me that worksite wellness programs today are not even necessarily about  health , but more about employee  health  status. These two terms differ. So how do they differ? Based on the definitions and reading I have done  health  status is a state at a fixed point in time, as opposed to the more global, encompassing concept of  health .

What Is  Health  Status?

The Stedman’s 7th Edition Medical Dictionary for the  Health  Professions and Nursing (2012) definition is: “The level of  health  of an individual person, group or population as assessed by that individual or by objective measures.”

The Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine (2001) defines the state of  health  as being the “degree to which physical and mental functioning are in equilibrium with the physical, biological and social environment.”

In his 1997 article titled  Health  Status Assessment, Stephen Wright uses the definition: “A focus on function and somatic sensation at a particular point in time.”

In the Segen’s Medical Dictionary (2012), the definition is: “A generic term referring to the  health  (good or poor) of a person, group or population in a particular area, especially when compared to other areas or with national data.”

The Medical Dictionary for the  Health  Professions and Nursing (2012) definition is: “The level of  health  of an individual person, a group, or a population as assessed by that individual or by objective measures.”

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, their definition is: “The level of  health  of the individual, group, or population as subjectively assessed by the individual or by more objective measures.”

The American Thoracic Society definitions are: “ Health  status is an individual’s relative level of wellness and illness by taking into account the presence of biological or physiological dysfunction, symptoms, and functional impairment.  Health  perceptions (or perceived  health  status) are subjective ratings by the affected individual of his or her  health  status. Some people perceive themselves as healthy despite suffering from one or more chronic diseases, while others perceive themselves as ill when no objective evidence of disease can be found.”

Rice University points out that “there is no single standard measurement of  health  status for individuals or population groups. Individual  health  status may be measured by an observer who performs an examination and rates the individual along any of several dimensions, including presence or absence of life-threatening illness, risk factors for premature death, severity of disease, and overall  health . Individual  health  status may also be assessed by asking the person to report his/her  health  perceptions in the domains of interest, such as physical functioning, emotional well-being, pain or discomfort, and overall perception of  health .”

On the Biology Online Website, “the level of  health  of the individual, group, or population as subjectively assessed by the individual or by more objective measures.” is their listed definition.

When examining and considering definitions, it is important from a conceptual perspective to remember that definitions are only part of the perspective. For conceptual clarity, one also needs to consider context and relevancy as being equally important as areas to focus on as well.

How  health  status is determined is an important perspective when applied in a worksite wellness setting.