That question stumped the audience and panel at the Tackling Long-Term Conditions conference in London last week (30th May). It is hard to find a single answer for something so personal, but without considering what it means, how can we develop healthcare systems that promote it?
The concept of well-being came about in the middle of the 20th century when medicine had made significant progress in overcoming disease, and the idea of positive-health developed (Breslow, 1972). In response, the World Health Organisation re-defined health as 'physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity'. In a medical world set around pathology and science, that was hard to digest. Despite the campaigning of mental health and social care charities, the medical world can still be narrow minded on occasions with their definition of health. For over 40 years, definitions have been studied and analysed (Quality of Life and Well-being: Measuring the benefits of sports and culture: Literature Review and Thinkpiece)
The haze around the definition of well-being might be responsible for the difficulties in measuring it, and therefore integrating it into modern healthcare practise.
|Cradle to Grave (Pharmacopoeia)|
The images and souvenirs that punctuate the medical sotry tell a story about an individual, with friends, family, hobbies, emotions and history. This illustrates exactly what well-being is for me - the narrative that overlays our medical history.
My own Pharmacopoeia would have a large number of MRI scans, steroids, neural analgesics, nerve conduction test results, physio reports and many more things I have yet to have! But what I need to make sure are also included are an (at least) equal number of great memories, photos of smiles and laughter, souvenirs from days with friends, family parties and scenes of love and warmth. While there were plenty of these to balance the odd paracetamol BC (before conditions), I need to make sure I have enough to punctuate the drug/scan-filled years AD (after diagnosis).... I need to look after my well-being in the midst of psychical illness - a challenge I am going to rise to!