Work is a Social Determinant of Health

How’s Work Treating You? 

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I was reviewing the film “Unnatural Causes,” which highlighted the five social determinants of health: 1) economic stability, 2) education, 3) social and community context, 4) health and health care, and 5) neighborhood and built environment. As a health economist, I started to wonder how does the context of ‘work’ impact economic stability and health, or is it the other way around?  How does salary influences one’s status of health and well-being? Or does one’s health, well-being, and wellness impact one’s capacity to work more effectively, creatively and healthier, and thus impact economic stability (bringing home the bacon)? Perhaps, work and health are actually more closely linked, knitted in a cyclic way to well-being and to the other social determinants.

Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory Pyramid, at the foundation of the pyramid model, we need and value ‘physiological needs’ (such as food and water to keep the body functioning), then the need for ‘safety’ ( a home to keep you warm), then ‘sense of love and belonging’ (family, friends, and community such as ‘work’), then ‘esteem’ (respect for oneself and others), and then finally at the top of the pyramid – self-actualization (finding purpose and meaning).  Work and health are not only cyclic and feedback to each other, but also a part of the fundamental human values of existence.

In the last decades, Schools of Public Health have been addressing social of determinants of health by focusing on the cross-cutting knowledge in systems thinking, professionalism, health communication, bioethics, public health biology, and cultural competency. Perhaps, using this inter-disciplinary approach in public health education, we can better define work wellness, occupational health, and employment well-being, thus move forward to creating a culture of health and well-being.  While we cannot change a social norm moving from unhealthy work to healthy work overnight (or even within a decade), we can make micro-changes for ourselves, starting today, every day, any moment. Feeling empowered now, huh?

Empowered Mind = Empowered Body = Empowered To Work Toward A Greater Cause.

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Tips for Healthy Work Well-Being:

  1. Stop multi-tasking. Overstimulation of your mind with your too many tasks doesn’t allow your body and mind to tune into one thing. It takes actually between 10-20 minutes for your mind to transit from one task to another task. Become effective by focusing on ONE thing.
  2. Focus on 25 minutes Chunk.  Concentrate on your task for 25 minutes. Turn off the email notification, cell phone, and don’t have more than ONE internet browser window opened.
  3. Take 5 minutes to reflect, walk and stretch.
  4. Reflect on how much you have completed, how do you feel (little less stressed?) how does your body feel (less tension on the neck)? Did you mind wander off, and if so, how many times? Did you try to open more one window browser, check email, or text during the 25 minutes?  Try another 25 minutes chunk of time, and keep those social media distractors turned off – “out of sight, out of mind”.
  5. Integrate one-minute meditation throughout the day.  Clear your mind of clutter before going to next big project.  Meditative state activates your mind for creativity.

Repeat. Reflect. Repeat.

Try one of these tips toward work wellness.
As the saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” by Lao Tzu. 

 

 

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