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New health indicators to determine well-being, study finds

A new article presents an innovative framework for integrating human functioning aspect into health and social systems to improve the approach to health

The research team aims to improve the implementation of human functioning aspects into health and social systems. (Unsplash)
The research team aims to improve the implementation of human functioning aspects into health and social systems. (Unsplash)

In recent years, with the pandemic affecting the world, increasing pressure on health services, and widening disparities in health outcomes academicians, the World Health Organisation is rethinking our approach to health and created an assessment framework to capture the multi-dimensional nature of everyday health experience, called 'human functioning.’

"Despite its great promise, this new tool has not been implemented widely in healthcare and policy. Our team's goal is to make it happen," said Prof Gerold Stucki, a senior member of a research team at Swiss Paraplegic Research and the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, as reported by ANI.

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In their new article, Stucki and colleagues present an innovative framework for integrating the assessment and treatment of functioning into health and social systems. The article was published in Frontiers in Science on 31 May. "We believe this approach can profoundly change health practice, education, research, and policy," said Jerome Bickenbach in the press statement.

Human functioning expands the traditional biomedical approach by including the 'lived health' aspect. This aspect refers to people’s capacity to engage in activities such as eating independently socialising and working. This approach aims to provide a more complete understanding of human health, according to ANI.

Assessment of functioning is important in determining health. For instance, a person with disabilities may have poor lived health in a physical environment that is not accessible. However, their functioning could be improved through assistive devices.

One of the study authors, Sara Rubinelli, explained in the statement that functioning also shows how our health is linked to our well-being. "It isn't just about the absence of disease, injury, or other physical issues, but also the ability to take part in daily life and achieve personal goals. Nurturing individual well-being on a large scale could truly transform our society, ultimately enhancing societal welfare."

The research team developed a multipronged strategy for implementing standardised assessment of functioning into health and social systems. It starts with identifying functioning as the third major health indicator, as reported by ANI.

"Morbidity and mortality are the two main indicators currently used to assess population health and the efficacy of policies and interventions," Cristiana Baffone, one of the authors said in the statement. She explains that recognizing functioning as the third main indicator will help in systematically collecting functioning data that can inform and guide public policy.

Moreover, the researchers explain that their approach can also advance the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal 3 (To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) as systematically tracking and analysing human functioning data across populations can help realise the full vision of SDG3, as reported by ANI.

The researchers said that they will start by establishing a new scientific field called human functioning sciences. This field will bring together different disciplines to improve understanding of health and guide research, healthcare, and policy.

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