What Is the Illness-Wellness Continuum?

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According to WellPeople, the illness-wellness continuum is a wellness model created by Dr. John Travis. Rather than looking at wellness as the absence of disease, Travis’ Wellness Inventory asserts that there are many degrees of wellness. This model views wellness as a spectrum, on which everyone can aspire to achieve increasing levels of wellness.

The illness-wellness continuum consists of three key concepts. WellPeople says the first key concept is, “wellness is a process, never a statistic.” If an individual is free from disability, illness and symptoms of disease, she has achieved a neutral level of wellness. As that individual achieves awareness, education and growth, she moves higher on the wellness spectrum.

WellPeople explains that the second key concept is, “illness and health are only the tip of the iceberg. To understand their causes, you must look below the surface.” The Wellness Inventory views a person’s state of health as the very tip of the iceberg. Below the water are lifestyle and behavior, psychological motivation and spiritual well-being.

The third key concept is interconnectedness, WellPeople explains. Everyone is connected to the rest of humanity and the whole universe. All life processes, including illness, are about managing attitude and energy. WellPeople asserts that stress and negative emotions weaken the immune system and lead to poor health and disease. Wellness is improved by managing these emotions in a positive way.

Within the illness-wellness continuum there is a treatment paradigm, WellPeople says. When a patient falls below the neutral point, the point at which she has no discernible disease, that patient requires treatment. Treatment is administered according to the treatment paradigm and consists of drugs, surgery, psychotherapy and other natural remedies. The treatment continues until the patient has recovered. Travis served a residency in preventive medicine at Johns Hopkins and the Health Services Research department of the U.S. Public Health Service.