What is ‘wellness,’ and how can it help me?

“Wellness” is a word people use frequently these days. But what does it really mean, especially when “wellness” is mentioned in the context of healthcare benefits?

There are plenty of definitions of “wellness.” The American Chiropractic Association defines wellness as “an active process that promotes health and enhances quality of life.” A physician’s association called Practical Prevention defines wellness in two ways. For individuals, Practical Prevention defines “wellness” as “a dynamic process in which you strive for balance your whole life through, with the capacity to raise awareness about how to maximize one’s overall health.” On a larger scale, Practical Prevention defines wellness as “an approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life,” not just focusing on the treatment of disease.

In the context of healthcare and benefits, “wellness” means ensuring that people have the tools and resources available to take better ownership of their own health. Some organizations work toward this goal by implementing programs that empower their constituents to really get involved with their own wellness.

The goal of those programs is not to require plan participants to work toward better health, but rather to show them the path toward better health, to provide maps for that path, and to provide support for those who undertake the journey.

Why does “wellness” matter? According to a survey of physicians, one reason is that doctors whose practices focus on wellness find that such “participatory medicine” can reduce costs and decrease health disparities between patients. Wellness education in doctor’s practices can help to prevent illness and provide better outcomes, and physicians even report greater satisfaction when caring for patients who are actively engaged in their own health.

For participants in the Fresno Unified School District plan, it’s important to note that an emphasis on wellness can have financial benefits as well. Numerous studies have shown that it’s usually less expensive to keep patients healthy than to get them well again, and numerous other studies have documented the savings borne of prevention.

So what does this mean for the FUSD’s health benefits plans? Expect to see an increased emphasis on wellness, and watch for information about the tools and support the JHMB will be providing as our participants embark on their own paths to wellness.

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