Work is a Social Determinant of Health

How’s Work Treating You? 


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.


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. 



SkinCare as the new HealthCare: the new mind-skin connection to health and disease

Do you know your skin is like a crystal ball?  Our skin is a window to your inner health, immunity, and psychology.  


Emerging research is demonstrating that meditation and mindfulness practices can improve emotional, spiritual and mental wellness.  The skin is the largest organ of the body, and the research is revealing the complexity of the biological process of the skin is a gateway to the mind-skin-body connection.

It makes senses.  Using a system thinking approach, we can see that our skin is connected to emotional, intellectual, and mental wellness. When you feel ‘stress,’ do you notice a cold sore, a pimple,  or dry skin? Or when you are feeling under the weather, does your skin feel ‘warm’?  Or do you have a habit of pulling hair, picking at dry nails, and scratching an itch?  Mind-Skin connection is probably more real than we had expected.  Nowadays,  public health professionals, health providers, and wellness managers are working together to develop and support wellness programs for patients with dermatologic conditions.  With this integrative approach, we can examine a type of skin-related disorders, biologic factors, environmental (external) factors, epigenetic biochemical changes, and demographic factors.

This is the beginning of a new conceptual framework to explore how our skin is connected to our mind-body-soul using complementary, integrative health practices.  Instead of focusing on the best cream for skin care, focus on providing nutrients through food, positive thoughts, and mindfulness to your body, which then can provide care for your skin.

Three Easy Ways to Write Well for Work, your Dissertation, and even during NaNoWriMo

After completing a few writing boot camps and even survived my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November) with a 50,000+ word count manuscript at the finish line, I was too exhausted to even appreciate and celebrate my accomplishment.  I realized I focused too much at my goal at the expense of my health. I took up a bad eating habit (who has time to cook?), stopped exercising (isn’t exercising my brain to write, enough?), and didn’t sleep well (if only, I can add a few more words…). I realized this pattern has to change.


I must change.  

Does it have to be this way? Yes and No. The choice is yours.

Whether you will be one of the novelists working on the 50,000+ words masterpiece, writing on your dissertation (probably over 50,000 words), or even working on your first blog, the writing process can be transformative beyond the words on the page and into your spirit.  You just need to be healthy enough to reflect and to enjoy it.

1. Change the mindset.

Self-care is not selfish.  Self-care is vital to ending the vicious cycle of love-and-hate of writing and our true nature. The entire writing process can be a retreat within the vicinity of your own body.  Through writing, you can know oneself on a deeper level, be reflective of your own senses and allow your awareness to direct your writing. Neglecting your body’s calling during the writing process is a missed opportunity to familiarize yourself with a healthy self, and the true self.

2. Restructure the writing schedule with self-care.  

Make your own wellness the priority and then assign a block of writing time around that.  I block out “health appointment” for myself.  If we go to our writing fortress with a well-nourished mind, body, and spirit, you will not only finish the writing project with minimally disrupted events but also end with a well-designed body and mind.

3. Create accountability.

As you track your word counts, create a method to keep track of your wellbeing. Join an online writing community as well as meet-up groups with a common interest in health and wellness.  Join an online writing community or meet up with a local writing group. Participate in a class and meet other writers to work on this wellness journey together.

The writing process can be an inspiring journey for self-discovery on and off the page. Writing through the empty spaces is like hiking into new terrains.

Write Strong. Live Well.  

Good Luck Fellow Writers for National Novel Writing Month! 

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