In Wellness Wednesday news, researchers and health care experts are learning more about COVID-19 every day — as are their patients who are focusing on their own wellness
Yet, one piece of information for your Wellness Wednesday that has remained relatively unchanged since the beginning of the pandemic is that this coronavirus appears to be a bigger threat for people with underlying medical conditions.
Some of the conditions thought to place people at a greater risk of developing more severe cases of COVID include cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung diseases, neurological conditions, diabetes, heart conditions and obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What do these have in common? Wellness plays a key role.
What is wellness?
Many people use the terms health and wellness interchangeably. Although they are arguably related, they’re two very different concepts.
Health is a term used to describe the status of our well-being. It says how we are physically, mentally and socially. We’re said to be in good health if our blood pressure and cholesterol are in the normal ranges, for instance. If we are in a positive mental space and have mutually beneficial relationships with others, we are said to be healthy in these areas as well.
Wellness, on the other hand, refers to the actions we can take to improve our levels of health and well-being. Or, as the Global Wellness Institute explains, it is “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” So, while health tells us where we are, wellness tells us what we can do to get to a better place.
Wellness and disease
While not all diseases can be prevented, it has long been known that people can take certain actions to reduce their risks of developing major medical conditions.
For example, the American Cancer Society shares that the most common causes of cancer include smoking, poor diet and living a sedentary life. Thus, quitting smoking, eating more nutritious foods and getting regular physical activity can reduce one’s risk of developing this disease.
If having cancer increases the chances of developing a more severe case of COVID, one could argue that not smoking, following a healthy diet and being physically active are all activities that can help reduce the risk of contracting the virus. These actions may not prevent the virus directly but could place the body in a stronger position to help fight it off.
It is this type of thinking that has prompted some in the health space to make patient wellness the center of focus in health care — with some patients requesting a more holistic approach from their chiropractors or primary care specialists.
Wellness Wednesday and making wellness the focus
On March 23, 2021, the Global Wellness Institute published an article highlighting that the U.S. spends $3.6 trillion in health care and this cost continues to increase. In it, the author suggests that wellness habits need to be addressed “by doing the maximum to ensure that people don’t fall ill in the first place.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also published a piece that adds that, while wellness was becoming a bigger focus for consumers pre-pandemic, the emergence of COVID-19 has made it an even greater priority. The virus has helped push the shift from making health care about disease management and treatment to one of disease prevention. A Wellness Wednesday celebrated in clinics and offices could soon stretch into Wellness Thursdays, Fridays, and everyday to remind patients of the need for daily wellness.
Improving patient wellness
As health care providers, chiropractic professionals play an important role in helping patients with this shift. Since wellness involves taking action, improving patient wellness requires teaching them the actions they can take to increase their health and well-being.
This begins with gaining a better understanding of the lifestyle choices people make that either add to or detract from their health. Ask about their habits and behaviors on your intake questionnaire. Do they smoke? What does their diet look like? Do they take a daily multivitamin and supplements? Do they get regular exercise?
It also involves educating them about the role that wellness plays in health. Help them understand that, while not all cases of disease can be prevented, the actions they take can impact their level of susceptibility. Make the connection for them.
Set out educational pamphlets patients can read while waiting for their appointment. Make these pamphlets yourself or use ones already created by other health agencies. You can download a variety of cancer-education materials designed by the American Cancer Society, for instance, to give to your patients. The American Diabetes Association also offers educational materials for patients.
Another option is to add a “Promoting Health” section to your email newsletter or a Wellness Wednesday campaign. Provide tips for increasing health and offer links to reputable organizations if they want to learn more. Hold free seminars for patients interested in improving their health. Give them the tools needed to make better health choices.
Making patient wellness a priority reinforces the role that each individual plays in regard to health. It also serves as a reminder that the choices made will either lead them closer to disease or closer to health. Help them choose the latter.