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Personal and social wellbeing are the foundation of our “Health First Era”

August 29, 2014
by Ron Manderscheid
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Focused awareness, assessment, and action to promote one’s good health have blossomed across America during the past few decades. Witness the legion of runners we see every morning, the virtual absence of smokers in public places, packed neighborhood gyms, and the abundance of “health” fare on restaurant menus. Indeed, we could think of this as the “Health First Era”.  It’s about people taking control of their health and “managing it”, because good health, ultimately, is a resource for a full and satisfying life. 

In behavioral healthcare, consumers lead this movement. Recovery is our “running”; wellness, our “health”. Intuitively, every consumer knows that one’s wellbeing, even one’s survival, may depend upon the actions taken to protect and promote one’s good health.  Consumers know that one cannot be passive about it—one must be mindful about making healthy choices, and then one must commit to those choices every day to manage and control one’s recovery. Thus, health-activation and self-management of health assume great importance.

Granted the gravity of this issue, it is equally important that we develop a very clear understanding of what actually constitutes good health.  As stated very eloquently and simply in the 1948 Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization:

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Thus, wellbeing is a core feature of good health. “Personal” wellbeing is an amalgam of one’s physical, mental, and emotional health. “Social” wellbeing is one’s relationship with the surrounding environment—both physical and social. Thus, overall wellbeing or good health is the combination of these two factors.

The fundamental importance of personal and social wellbeing has been underlined by the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Department originally determined that both are “foundational health measures” for Healthy People 2020 (HP2020); now, they have evolved into a defined Topic Area on health-related quality of life and wellbeing. Several national objectives and measures already have become part of HP2020, and others already have been proposed. To support this effort, the Department has convened an ongoing federal Interagency Workgroup.

If you are interested in personal and social wellbeing, and its measurement, you will have an opportunity to participate in an important upcoming webinar:

“Promoting and Measuring Well-being and Health-Related Quality of Life:

 A Healthy People 2020 Spotlight on Health Webinar”

September 25, 2014

12:30-2:00 pm edt

You can register at:

As we go forward, one can envision a day in which each of us will monitor our own personal and social wellbeing through these measures. Many of us, especially those of us living with chronic diseases, including mental illness, judge how we are feeling (e.g., sad, cheerful) and how are lives are going (e.g., satisfied or dissatisfied with various aspects of our lives).  In the future, we will view these kinds of questions as barometers of our own health, much as we do a thermometer today. They actually will help us assess how well we are fostering our own good health.



Ron Manderscheid

Exec. Dir., NACBHDD and NARMH

Ron Manderscheid


Ron Manderscheid, Ph.D., serves as the Executive Director of the National Association of County...

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