“Quality of life happens to be the element that is most important in motivating people to deal with an illness. People aren’t motivated to follow their clinical regimen if in fact it doesn’t improve the way they function and get along with others and manage day to day,” says Noreen Clark, director of the Center for Managing Chronic Disease at the University of Michigan. And to that end, many health-care providers are adding a subjective measure to their treatment programs. The idea works like this – if people have personal goals like taking care of their kids, and getting to work on time, rather than focusing exclusively on abstract tasks like watching their blood-sugar levels they will be healthier. Various studies have shown that people have less emergency-room visits, and fewer hospitalizations when they have a better sense of well-being. Work productivity, and community involvement also improve.
The Institute of Medicine, a group that advises the government on health policy recently called for a new national action plan to identify programs that enable people to “live well” reflecting “the best achievable state of health that encompasses all dimensions of physical, mental and social well-being.” One patient, enrolled in Women Breathe Free, a program at Dr. Clark’s center at the University of Michigan found that talking to a counselor regularly helped her to overcome the fear and depression she was experiencing due to her severe asthma. Said the patient, “I never had anyone to talk to who understood me or what I was dealing with. It has really helped me to have more self-confidence and a better outlook about my quality of life.” Rosemarie Kobau, a public-health adviser on quality-of-life programs at the Center for Disease Control said “well-being moves us closer to looking at health in a positive sense – as more than the absence of illness.”
Focusing on the “big picture” can enable health care providers to not only talk to their patients about their physical health, but to also ask them “how is your health affecting your quality of life?” WSJ.com April 16, 2012