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Unpacking the Jargon of Public Health and Worksite

Back in the 1980s, employers picked up the tab for unhealthy employee behaviors like smoking in the office. Worksite wellness programs first got their start almost 40 years ago with an emphasis on smoking cessation and other physical issues like fitness and nutrition. Today, we know that true wellness acknowledges that the body, mind, and spirit are tied together within the eight dimensions of wellness 

The Wellbeing Partners seeks to bridge discussion between workplaces and community to connect the language commonly used in each. For worksites, this means the introduction of the social determinants of health. 

As it turns out, the dimensions of wellness and the social determinants of health are two ways of talking about the same thing: total person wellbeing. The two concepts complement each other to create an enhanced impact for individuals, workplaces, and community. The dimensions of wellness dig deeper than just the typical understanding of fitness and nutrition as ‘health’ and go on to address individuals as multi-faceted people who need total-person care to achieve complete wellbeing. The social determinants of health define the societal framework that may adversely affect an individual’s (or community’s) ability to be well in a way that is beyond their control. 

The Social Determinants of Health

  • Economic Stability (including issues like food and housing)
  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Neighborhood and Environment
  • Social & Community Context

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness

  • Emotional/Mental
  • Environmental
  • Financial
  • Intellectual
  • Occupational
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Spiritual (Purpose)

You can see how they overlap: 

  • Economic Stability = Financial, Physical, Occupational, Spiritual, and Emotional/Mental
  • Education = IntellectualSocialOccupational, and Emotional/Mental
  • Health Care = FinancialPhysical, Occupational, and Emotional/Mental
  • Neighborhood and Environment = SocialEnvironmentalPhysical, and Emotional/Mental
  • Social & Community Context = SocialSpiritual, and Emotional/Mental  

Notice anything? First, you’ll see that Emotional/Mental wellbeing threads through each social determinant, because all parts of our lives impact our emotional health and mental wellbeing. It would also be fair to say that the seven other aspects of wellbeing all feed into our mental health. Poor financial health, for example, would lead to stress and anxiety about security. Poor social health would lead to loneliness and depression. Lack of purpose (spiritual health) would make one feel lost and without direction. A cluttered home environment could lead to distraction and frustration – and so on with each dimension. 

Secondly, you may be able to identify additional ways that the dimensions of wellbeing play into the social determinants of health – ways that we don’t even list above. This is an excellent picture of the ways that wellbeing is intertwined into our lives. Rarely, if ever, can we separate one entirely from another, and the impacts of our societal structure are no different. Look at the list again and think about the huge hit on a person’s wellbeing if one of these needs is not met. Economic instability, for example, can cause financial anxiety, limitation on physical wellbeing through lack of nutritious food options, occupational stress through job insecurity or lack of employer care, unfulfillment of purpose, and of course the overall mental toll taken by depletion in each area of wellness. 

It’s not something we can overlook, and to think about the total health of our employees and community members, we need to look at the dimensions of wellness and the social determinants of health together. 

In the next several blog posts and other content you can find on our social media (FacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram) and in the portal, we will share resources about COVID-19 as they relate to the dimensions of wellness and the social determinants of health so you can hopefully think about how the spread of the virus may be impacting community members in ways beyond just the physical.  

To reach out with questions, please email us at