WHAT IS HEALTH PROMOTION?
At Four Health Corners we specialize in health promotion. This was our academic focus in nursing school and we have over 25 years of professional experience in this field. There is a difference between clinical nursing (working in a hospital with patients who have existing illness) and community/health promotion nursing (working with individuals and communities to promote wellness regardless of health status).
"Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behaviour towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions." (W.H.O.)
Health promotion is for everyone. It is for those without known illness and also for those with known illness.
Health is not static, it changes, nor is it simply the opposite of illness. As illustrated in the Illness-Wellness Continuum, and as illustrated in this image, there are many degrees of illness as there are wellness.
From the centre to the red side, or left, shows a progressively worsening state of health. Moving to the blue, or right, of centre denotes increasing levels of health and well-being. The treatment paradigm (pharmaceuticals, herbs and supplements, surgery, physiotherapy, acupuncture and so on) can bring people to the neutral point, where the symptoms of their illness have been alleviated. The wellness paradigm, on the other hand, runs the gamut of the continuum and thus can be applied regardless of where we currently believe our health to be. The wellness paradigm directs us to move beyond neutral as far toward the blue as is possible. It does not necessarily replace the treatment paradigm, instead runs alongside it.
The wellness paradigm is the one we emphasize at Four Health Corners to promote high level wellness of both body and mind. It is not as important where you are currently standing along the continuum as much as which direction you are facing.
Wellness does not necessarily preclude illness, or even death. We all get sick. We all will eventually die. We need not deny our nature as human beings. One can be dealing with illness and even approaching death and still be facing toward the blue. The continuum is about overall wellbeing which includes mental as well as physical states. Illness in the body does not necessarily prevent higher level wellness in the "spirit" or mind. That said, the representation above is meant to give a simplistic overall view, yet the concept of health can be quite complex. The take away message is: moving toward wellness is possible at any point along the continuum.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." We can run for the cure all we want but that doesn't change the fact that the best way to cure cancer is to prevent it in the first place. And the great thing about prevention strategies is that they can be used at any point along the continuum - meaning: the best way to treat cancer, or any illness, is to include those same prevention strategies.
Promoting good health and reducing risk factors not only helps prevent illness but it also helps in healing from illness. For example: we all know that increasing our intake of healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits and legumes plays a role in decreasing our risk of heart disease. But for those that have heart disease the research is now showing that a healthy plant based diet can also help treat and cure people of many forms of heart disease.
In addition, there is mounting evidence suggesting that mindfulness meditation can help with illness prevention as well as helping with existing illness.
Health promotion is considered an upstream (wellness paradigm) approach to healthcare, meaning that instead of only rescuing people downstream after they have fallen into the river (treatment paradigm) we try and stop them upstream, before they fall in, by looking at what is causing them to fall in in the first place, otherwise known as “prevention.” Prevention is grouped into three categories:
Here the goal is to protect individuals without known illness from getting ill and to improve their health and wellbeing. Four Health Corners' primary prevention focus on the raw food education and mindfulness instruction. Our free VegansFriend web application is a perfect tool to manage your nutrition intake and promotr healthy vagen eating.
These interventions happen after an illness or serious risk factors have already been diagnosed or identified. The goal here is to halt or slow the progress of disease in its earliest stages and move toward higher levels of wellness. This type of prevention is found in all our programs: mindfulness classes, raw vegan food instruction, and the vegan meal planning and recipe sharing app. There is an abundance of evidence linking a healthy vegan diet with imporved health outcomes.
The focus here is on helping people manage and/or reverse complicated, long term health problems. This type of prevention can actually be found in all our programs because again prevention strategies are useful at any stage of illness.
We always work with you in the direction of high-level wellness.
There are many ways to promote health and wellbeing, these include: educational programs, informative apps or websites, policies, economics, organizational interventions and regulatory interventions. In other words health promotion can take the form of education for individuals and groups which may include social marketing strategies and campaigns. It can also be found in organizational cultures that promote and normalize healthy behaviors in the workplace. We also see health promotion in the form of legislation that bans BPA plastic baby bottles or bans smoking in public places. An economic example would be to compensate industry for greenhouse emission reductions. There are endless ways to promote public health and wellbeing.
Promoting health at all levels is relevant and necessary. At Four Health Corners our focus is to help build capacity at the individual and community levels. According to Daniel Wegner, a social psychologist and professor of psychology at Harvard University, when people feel they can make informed decisions about their health their sense of personal agency increases. A sense of agency, according to Wikipedia, is “the subjective awareness that one is initiating, executing and controlling one’s own volitional actions in the world.”
According to the Ottawa Charter (1986), one of the foundational documents on health promotion practice in Canada, three of the key actions for promoting good health are to create supportive environments, strengthen community action and develop personal skills. At Four Health Corners we utilize these key actions in the design and implementation of our programs and interventions in such a way as to positively influence the determinants of health. The 12 Determinants of Health are the factors that affect health. Some of these determinants are: individual health practices, coping skills, knowledge, social supports and physical environments.
Examples of how we put health promotion theory into practice to help positively strengthen the determinants of health:
- The mindfulness programs (MBSR and mindfulness classes) give people a tangible way to deal with challenging situations in their lives. It teaches people how to gain greater control over their own reactivity and begin responding with choice and awareness. It also teaches acceptance and being in the present moment. Research shows it can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression and pain, as well as help people dealing with chronic health conditions. It is also shown to improve overall physical and mental health.
- The raw vegan food education program is for those who want to become raw vegans. It encompasses mindful eating, healthy raw vegan choices and how to prepare raw vegan food.
- Our new web app VegansFreind provides support for indiviudals wanting to adopt or maintain a vegan lifestyle. It allows for information sharing by providing nutrient data and helpful blogs. It offers support and community through recipe sharing. It also promotes environental integrity and animal rights with Karma and Enviro Scores.
"A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses." (Hippocrates)