The health-illness continuum, also termed the illness-wellness continuum, is a graphical illustration of the well-being concept. Essentially, it proposes that wellbeing encompasses mental and emotional health, and the presence or absence of illness (Moreira et al., 2020). The health-illness concept lies on the fundamental basis that relying on the presence or absence of symptoms as an insufficient measure of wellness. As a result, the health-illness continuum can be used to elaborate on how an individual, regardless of the absence of physical illness, may suffer from anxiety, depression, and other conditions.
The wellness paradigm advocates that the responsibility of medicine extends beyond bringing an individual to a neutral point. This neutral point is such that there is no longer any visible illness (Smith et al., 2017). The health-illness paradigm requires that medicine moves an individual from illness, along the continuum, past the neutral point, and into the emotional, mental, and physical wellness states (Naylor, 2018; Smith et al., 2017). Greater wellbeing is achieved as an individual move farther to the right, through stages of education, awareness, and growth. Conversely, the worse states on the left are reflected by symptoms, signs, and disability.
The health-illness continuum provides a perspective that is important to health and the overall human experience when caring for patients. This is primarily because it allows for a more holistic approach to health and recovery by including the consideration for further development past the neutral point. The continuum dictates a broader perspective when looking at health, providing that wellness is much more than the absence of physical symptoms (Smith et al., 2017). This perspective encourages health care providers to consider a patient’s emotional and mental wellbeing, which are aspects that may be ignored in more conventional forms of medicine. Furthermore, the health-illness continuum passively promotes preventive treatment which ensures that a patient takes measures, in tandem with his or her healthcare provider to prevent deterioration of their condition and movement farther to the left. This can be done through early-onset interventions and education to raise awareness and avoid risk factors.
Understanding the health-illness continuum improves the practice of health care providers significantly. This is primarily due to the shift in perspective that would drive a health care provider to assess the intrinsic and extrinsic factors within a patient that would compromise his or her wellbeing. For instance, in more conventional health care programs, a provider is more concerned with the elimination of physical symptoms to return the patient to a neutral point. However, when prescribing to the health-illness continuum, a health care provider will seek to understand any underlying mental, emotional, environmental, spiritual, and societal factors that may be contributing to the patient’s stage in the continuum (Dean, 2016). This holistic approach promotes the addressing of any underlying or predisposing factors, ensuring a more sustainable approach is adopted for the long term, and pathology or premature death is avoided. With this outcome delayed, overall societal and individual human flourishing is promoted.
As a health care provider, I am acutely aware of potential health risk factors in my personal and professional life, as well as disease prevention measures. Furthermore, I often seek to adopt a positive outlook whenever possible; preferring an optimistic approach to challenges and issues in my personal life to reduce the mental and emotional toll on myself. I also exercise regularly, undertaking a cardiovascular routine at least three times a week, and a conditioning or stretching routine whenever possible. Conversely, due to the obligations in my personal and professional life, I have irregular sleep patterns, and may not sleep sufficient hours regularly. Furthermore, I could be more active, as the majority of my day is spent on sedentary activities due to my responsibilities. As a result, I would objectively place myself in the growth stage of the health-illness continuum. This stage in the health-illness continuum is arrived at primarily because I have identified the aspects of my life that may be detrimental to my wellness. I have also taken a conscious effort to educate myself on how to address these issues. However, I have not yet acquired high-level wellness.
In the contemporary health care and wellness landscape, there are extensive resources available to help monitor and improve wellness. Given the current conditions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a plethora of remote-training facilities. Online trainers and fitness experts can help design personalized home-fitness programs that can be implemented regardless of the time constraints of the individual. Furthermore, there are mobile health trackers, including bands and watches that offer extensive monitoring capacity, including heart rate, blood glucose levels, blood volume, and cardiovascular strain. This data would be essential in monitoring progress and readjustments if necessary. Finally, self-discipline would be required for ensuring that I commit to a fitness and wellness regimen. This would allow me to rectify certain aspects of my sedentary lifestyle and fix my poor sleeping habits. A culmination of all these elements would significantly improve my overall wellness and position myself favorably towards self-actualization.
Dean, P. J. (2016). Nursing Considerations for an Emerging and Enlarging Symbiosis Between Technology and Integrative Human Health: Need for a Systematized Base for Caring Science, International Journal of Human Caring, 20(4), 171-175.
Moreira, A. D. S. R., Kritski, A. L., & Carvalho, A. C. C. (2020). Social determinants of health and catastrophic costs associated with the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, Jornal Brasileiro de Pneumologia, 46(5).
Naylor, M. D. (2018). Overview and Summary: Translational Research: From Knowledge to Practice, OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 23(2).
Smith, R., Frazer, K., Hall, P., Hyde, A., & O’Connor, L. (2017). Betwixt and between health and illness–women’s narratives following acute coronary syndrome, Journal of clinical nursing, 26(21-22), 3457-3470.