Assess the health of a person it is a complex task, insofar as it depends on a large number of different factors. For this reason, throughout history, scientists have coined a good number of terms and parameters that refer to this set of phenomena, which have been adding dimensions to what we call ‘well-being’.
What is ‘human functioning’?
With the impulse of the covid pandemic, and all that it has meant for collective well-being (both at a physiological, psychological or social level), the World Health Organization began to rethink the way in which it captures the multi-dimensional reality of human health. As explained in the article published on the matter in the prestigious scientific medium Frontiers in Sciencefor this he has introduced the term ‘human functioning’.
The idea is that the ‘human functioning’ parameter serves as a tool in the fields of health policies and public and private health services. What is new about it is that it increases the traditional biomedical approach taking into account the ‘lived health’: the ability of individuals to participate in a range of activities such as eating, socializing or working.
The authors illustrate the importance of this concept with the example of the reduced mobility. A person with such a disability could experience poor ‘lived health’ in an inaccessible physical environment; instead, your ‘human functioning’ can be increased by interventions such as assistive devices or improvements to the infrastructure around you.
A challenge ahead
In the world of health policies, two main indicators are currently used to assess the health of a population and the effectiveness of the interventions taken: morbidity (or the ‘presence’ of disease) and mortality. For this reason, these researchers propose the inclusion of the functioning as a third major indicator of health.
This, they say, will not be easy. Integrating this parameter into the political conception of health will require a very significant investment and involvement by health care providers, legislators and the public themselves.
However, the very study of the health experience of individuals and the way to measure and improve ‘human functioning’ may end up justifying the appearance of a new branch of science one that, they believe, would forever change our conception of what well-being is and the way in which we act on our health.
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Bickenbach, J., et al. The human functioning revolution: implications for health systems and sciences. Frontiers in Science (2023). DOI: doi.org/10.3389/fsci.2023.1118512.
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