Benchmark – Human Experience across the Health-Illness Continuum

The World Health Organization describes health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease. Health is determined by factors such as environment, education, genetics, and interpersonal relationships (GCU, 2018). This paper seeks to discuss the health-illness continuum and its relevance to patient care and describe a perspective of my current state of health with respect to the wellness spectrum.

Health-Illness Importance to Health and Patient Care

The Health-Illness Continuum, proposed by Ryan and Travis, illustrates health and illness along a continuum. The continuum is a diagrammatic representation with high-level health and wellness at the extreme right and high levels of illness and poor health and premature death at the extreme left (Ali et al., 2018). The middle of the continuum is regarded as the neutral zone since there is neither health nor illness. High levels of wellness are achieved through three steps, which are awareness, education, and growth (Ali et al., 2018). Signs, symptoms, and disability manifest in the left direction that leads to premature death.

Nurses must consider the health-illness continuum when caring for patients to enable them to move along the continuum towards high health levels. For instance, when they understand that health is achieved when a patient is effectively managed, the nurse will strive to provide quality, comprehensive care (GCU, 2018).  Besides, when nurses understand that poor health is caused by trauma and infections, they take interventions to promote patient safety (Svalastog et al., 2017). According to the continuum, persons moving towards high-level wellness are usually optimistic and have a positive view regardless of their existing health condition (Ali et al., 2018). On the other hand, persons in the left direction towards premature death are generally pessimistic and have negative perceptions of their health condition.

Relation of Human-Illness Continuum to Value, Dignity, and Promotion of Human Flourishing

The health-illness continuum enables me as a nurse to promote the value and dignity of people and groups and to serve individuals in a manner that promotes human flourishing. The continuum has made me understand that an individual passes through various states of health and illness. These states range from good health and usually fluctuate to disability and death across the human lifespan (Svalastog et al., 2017). I have learned that health is a recurring change process, and individuals must constantly adapt to these changes to maintain good health and general well-being.

As a health provider, I will apply knowledge from the health-illness continuum to help individuals positively respond and adapt to changes in their health and well-being. For instance, I can help a patient diagnosed with a chronic disease function effectively by training them on the appropriate adaptation strategies and enabling them to flourish (Taylor, Lynn & Bartlett, 2018). High wellness levels can only be achieved when a patient’s mental and emotional aspects are incorporated into the treatment plan. Consequently, all health aspects must be included through holistic care to promote their general well-being (Taylor et al., 2018). I can uphold individuals’ values and dignity by supporting them psychologically, emotionally, and socially. Furthermore, the health education and promotion I provide to individuals, and the community should aim at empowering them to make informed health decisions and support them to flourish.

Reflection on Personal State of Health and the Health Illness Continuum

I would describe my state of health as unremarkable and moving towards the right side of the health-illness continuum. I have no physical or psychological symptoms and no history of a chronic illness. My BMI is currently at 22.8, which is within the normal weight range. There is a family history of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and colorectal cancer, which puts me at risk of developing similar conditions. Personal behaviors that support good health and well-being include taking three balanced meals a day with a variety of fruits and taking lots of water, more than the recommended eight glasses a day.

I attend annual health checkups and take advantage of free community screenings to have my blood pressure and blood sugar screened. I also ensure I have adequate rest with at least 6 hours of sleep a day and attend Yoga classes for my mental health. These personal behaviors make me move towards a high level of health and wellness on the right side of the continuum. Nevertheless, some behaviors detract me from achieving a high level of health, including lack of adequate physical exercises. My physical exercises entail mostly walking and swimming on weekends. I feel that these are not adequate exercises, and I need to increase the intensity and duration. Besides, I take alcohol about 3-4 beers about four days a week, which could put me at risk of hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Lack of adequate exercise and alcohol consumption detracts me from reaching high levels of health.

Resources Supporting Wellness

Resources that would significantly help me move toward wellness on the health-illness continuum include GCU’s Health and Wellness clinic. The GCU clinic provides top-notch healthcare services to its students and staff, including wellness promotion, TB skin tests, weight management, health education, and smoking cessation. Clients benefit from various wellness clinic services, including physical exams, treatment of illnesses, and holistic and individualized care. Therefore, I can benefit from the GCU wellness clinic services by having routine physical exams and screening services. I can also seek counseling on cessation of alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, and preventing chronic illnesses. Lastly, I can use the GCU library to access health articles on the prevention of diseases and achieving higher levels of health.

Conclusion

The health-illness continuum is a diagrammatic representation representing a high level of health and wellness on the right and poor health and premature death on the left. The continuum is important in patient care since health providers can understand that people move along the continuum from poor health toward health when they are successfully treated. On the other hand, they move along the continuum from good to poor health due to factors such as infection or trauma. The continuum can be used to promote human value, dignity, and flourishing by promoting the mental and social well-being of individuals and providing health education that empowers them to make informed health decisions.

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References

Ali, T., Hussain, M., Afzal, M., Khan, W. A., Hur, T., Amin, M. B., Kim, D., Kang, B. H., & Lee, S. (2018). Clinically harmonized wellness concepts model for health and wellness services. IEEE Access6, 26660-26674. https://doi.org/10.1109/ACCESS.2018.2834391

Grand Canyon University (Ed). (2018). Health assessment: Foundations for effective practice. Retrieved from https://lc.gcumedia.com/nrs434vn/health-assessment-foundations-for-effective-practice/v1.1/

Svalastog, A. L., Donev, D., Jahren Kristoffersen, N., & Gajović, S. (2017). Concepts and definitions of health and health-related values in the knowledge landscapes of the digital society. Croatian medical journal58(6), 431–435. https://doi.org/10.3325/cmj.2017.58.431

Taylor, C., Lynn, P., & Bartlett, J. (2018). Fundamentals of Nursing: The Art and Science of Person-Centered Care. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

For the middle-aged adult, exercise can reduce the risk of various health problems. Choose two at-risk health issues that regular physical exercise and activity can help prevent and manage. Discuss the prevalence of each of these health problems in society today. Describe measures that you would take as a nurse to assist clients with health promotion measures to incorporate exercise and physical activity into their lives. Include the kind of activities you would recommend, the amount of exercise, and the approach you would use to gain cooperation from the client. Support your response with evidence-based literature.

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Middle- aged adults experience a variety of health concerns, varying from terminal illness to minor problems. Though our health is very important to us, the reality should be addressed with the individual early on in the diagnosis. Two health issues that can be improved with regular activity are hypertension and high cholesterol. According to Falkner, “Proper nutrition and physical activity are essential and lead to positive effects on overall health and help to prevent disease”…“ For instance, if the patient does not have access or financial means to join a gym, the nurse could help them develop a home workout regimen or a walking plan. The nurse should also provide proper nutrition recommendations such as those described on the Unites States Food and Drug Administration (USDA) website” (2018).

Hypertension is a pesky illness that may stay borderline for years, but the body can only tolerate the higher pressures within the blood vessels before it starts to damage vital organs and cause further health issues. The CDC conducted a study which showed “During 2015–2016, the prevalence of hypertension was 29.0% and increased with age: age group 18–39, 7.5%; 40–59, 33.2%; and 60 and over, 63.1%” (CDC, 2017). The fact is, these rates will continue to climb unless action is taken to reverse these illnesses. Increasing physical activity and exercise will allow these individuals to improve heart health, as well as become more aware of other health improvements. Along with changing your lifestyle, you should also encourage the individuals to monitor blood pressure daily, provide better dietary choices low in fats and salts, and also giving the individual the ability to still feel like they have options.

High Cholesterol is another illness that can be modified if lifestyle and dietary changes are made. According to the CDC, “Nearly 94 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. Twenty-eight million adults in the United States have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL” (CDC, 2017). The goal for optimal cholesterol is anything less than 200 mg/dL. According to Heart, “Eat a heart-healthy diet. Focus on plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit saturated fats and trans fats. Monounsaturated fat, found in olive and canola oils, is a healthier option. Avocados, nuts and oily fish are other sources of healthy fat” (2021). They also suggest “Exercise regularly. With your doctor’s OK, work up to at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five times a week. Don’t smoke. If you smoke, find a way to quit” (Heart, 2021).

 

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017d). New CDC report: More than 100 million Americans

have diabetes or prediabetes. Retrieved from

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0718-diabetes-report.html

My cholesterol guide. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-

topics/cholesterol/cholesterol-tools-and-resources. Accessed March 10, 2021.