Last week I talked a little about
the difference between health and wellness and I touched on things such as
behavior changes and how they can lead to a total overall state of wellness.
This week I want to take that a step further and show you how things like
prevention, factors influencing behavior change and the health belief model of
behavior change can impact the wellness continuum in your life.

There are three levels of
prevention primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary are those things like
getting your child immunized regularly and not smoking or drinking. In other
words they are things that you can do to make sure a health problem doesn't
start in the first place. Secondary involves regular cancer screenings, smoking
cessation, and regular medical check ups to name a few. E.g. it is recommended
that all women get regular yearly pap smears to keep on top of cervical cancer
as well as catch sexually transmitted diseases before they become a problem.
Tertiary encompasses chemo, radiation therapy and coronary bypass surgery. This
is the stage where you have done the damage to your body and now more extreme
preventative measures have to be taken to rehabilitate the functioning of the
affected organs and organ systems. People that have high cholesterol and body
fat typically fall into this category as plaque buildup clogs arteries making
it hard for blood to circulate properly through the system so they end up going
in for the above mentioned bypass surgery.

In a nut shell if you know your
family history is prone to cancer then you can take steps to circumvent that,
because the tertiary measures are not pleasant. Conversely though from my
personal experience I was doing everything right but yet developed
pre-cancerous growth on my cervix and had to go in for a colposcopy and then
every three months I had to go in for a repeat pap until we were sure that we
had gotten it. I also in 1997 had a cyst five cm's in diameter on my right ovary
and had to have not only the ovary removed but the tube as well. The cyst had
spread so far that it had gone to my tube. I am a walking testimonial as to how
important it is for women and even men to keep on top of their recommended
exams. If I had not kept up on mine I would be in much worse shape then I ended
up being in. Now I have one functioning ovary and tube and am able to get
pregnant. I also have not had any recurring episodes with my cervix either and
am back to yearly exams instead of every three months.

Some factors influencing behavior
change are, predisposing, enabling, reinforcement, and motivational.
Predisposed factors are things like your attitudes and what you were taught to
believe or have come to believe maybe about yourself or your habits. This also
plays into self esteem. If you have been in an environment where you are always
exposed to smoking it is going to be hard to stop smoking, that is also where
enabling factors come in because you are around other folks that are always
buying cigarettes and lighters and so they leave it in your midst not caring if
your trying to quit and then inadvertently enabling you to continue. This also
applies to quitting drinking losing weight, gambling cessation; the list goes
on and on.

The health belief model of
behavior change includes five areas; susceptibility, seriousness, benefits,
barriers, and cues to action. Let's take alcoholism to illustrate this. If an
alcoholic was told that he would develop cirrhosis of the liver that would then
take into account the susceptibility factor, thus he may then realize that this
is a serious consequence of his bad health habits, therefore he would hopefully
be able to see that a healthy liver is a benefit of stopping his drinking. Now
the hard part would be for him to overcome his barriers, which might be lack of
support, self control, and self esteem issues. If he can remedy these issues
then he may be able to turn it around. Cue's to action are those things that
trigger a change, in the last article I mentioned how my exposure to a diseased
lung and brain were my cue's to not take up smoking and drinking to excess.
This, most would hope also be a point for alcoholics as well, by allowing them
to see a diseased brain pickled by alcohol. Most, however, have to hit rock
bottom in whatever form that may take for them before they change their
behavior. From my personal experience it took my son's father getting five
years in prison to realize he needed to wake up and stop drinking. He has been
sober now for 4 years and looks healthier then he did as an alcoholic. His test
will come when he is released and is thrown back into society to face all the
obstacles that will still be there when he gets out.

I hope this was an educational
look into how you can take charge of your health to ensure your wellness
continuum maintains the balance it needs to keep you healthy for many years to