Monday, October 25, 2010

Measuring Health - how healthy are you?

If you can't measure it. you can't manage it", said management guru Peter F. Drucker.

How do you measure your personal health?  Can we measure health?  Is 'health' the opposite of 'illness'.  Do we measure illness?  These simple questions force us to think seriously about the definitions of health, and illness.

Warning.  If you try GOOGLE, your public library, your doctor to find a 'health measurement' - you will be seriously challenged.  The word 'health' is generally used to mean 'illness'. Health Care is not about health - it is about illness. "Measuring Health: A Guide to Rating Scales and Questionnaires", by Ian McDowell is not, as the title suggest - about measuring health.  It is about measuring illness and deficiencies.
For example it discusses the Health Utilities Index which measures the health of our sensory systems as:
1. Able to see, hear, and speak normally for age.
2. Requires equipment to see or hear or speak.
3. Sees, hears, or speaks with limitations even with equipment.
4. Blind, deaf, or mute."
eg. If you can 'see, hear and speak normally for your age' - you are healthy. There is no measurement of how healthy you are.  Measurements of 'health' only arise when you are clearly 'deficient'. Health is not measured. Either you have it, or not.

Illness is defined by 'diagnosis'.  The result is binary.  Either you have disease x, or you do not. Doctors diagnose 'illness' and prescribe a treatment.  Some illnesses have progressions, from pre-diabetic, to type 2 diabetes is one example.  Pre-diabetes is also measured as a 'yes/no' answer.

Yes/no responses are not adequate measures of health.  We need a more sophisticated technique - or perhaps many sophisticated techniques to create an accurate measure of health.  We can start with the basic disciplines of health: nutrients, cells, organs, systems, physical health, mental health, social health and spiritual health. If we can measure health on each of these areas - the sum will provide an overall health measurement.

But search you may - you will not find a tool to measure your health status in any one of these areas - much less all 8 of them.

How can you accurately measure your nutrient health?  Nutrient health is made up of hundreds of components - the essential nutrients.  Our medical establishment does not agree on the two key factors required to measure nutrient health:

1. What nutrients are essential to health? eg. What nutrients do we need to measure to determine nutrient health.
2. What level of nutrient is 'optimal' for optimal health?  Our medical systems generally define how much of each nutrient is 'essential to avoid illness in most people', and how much is 'so much it may result in risk of illness'.  But between those two numbers - often very far apart - there is no scientific information that recommends 'optimal' levels of nutrients.

If we try to measure cellular health... hmm. Do we need surgery? What tools does our medical system have to measure cellular health - of a relatively healthy subject? Are the blood cells healthy? The skin cells?  The bone cells?  etc. How do we know how healthy they are - on a scale of 0 to 100 percent, for example.

When we can measure health, some serious questions might be easily answered.  Do mercury fillings improve or degrade your health?  Your cellular health? Your organ health? Does removing mercury fillings improve your health in the short term?  The long term?

Can we measure individual (or personal) health to any useful level of accuracy?

How can we manage our own personal health if we cannot measure health?

If we are to strive for Personal Health Freedom - we need to explore the measurement of health.
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: