The concept of third era health care comes from the understanding that the antidote to disease and sickness is health and well-being.
From cells to organs to organisms, from individuals to families to populations, there are micro and macro environments that impact our health and well-being as individuals and as members of society. The opportunity available to each of us is to design our lives and society to support optimal health and well-being.
In 1948, the World Health Organization defined health as follows: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." In 2006, Breslow suggested that to move beyond the first two eras of health (infectious disease and chronic disease), the third era of health should view health not just as a state of well-being, but as a resource for living; to be able to do the things we want to do in our lives.
Recently, Horoho called for a change from a disease-centric to a health-centric approach to health care. In addition to three essential goals—to maintain, restore and improve health—she also recognized the importance of engaging patients outside of the office or clinic, in their “Lifespace.”
What has become increasingly clear is that we cannot afford (in human or financial terms), the growing epidemics of disease that are labeled as ‘chronic’ primarily because we have failed to successfully address the (overwhelmingly lifestyle-induced) root causes of these diseases.
As health care professionals, we can position ourselves to coach our patients in leading healthier lives through the power of their daily choices and healthy habits, in areas including nutrition, activity, sleep, mindfulness, and stress.
When we come to understand that empowering ourselves and others to create healthier lives is a fundamentally different paradigm than reacting to disease as a problem to be solved, we will realize that our health and well-being are generative and created, and not the result of treating or managing disease.
Health and well-being is a gift we can easily give to our patients, and ourselves.