8.2 Health and Wellness

Contributed by Dr. Sara Champlin

As we get started in this module, consider all of the health topics that could arise in everyday conversations. Think about your own health, or the health of a friend or family member. You might think about how your health may have changed over the course of your lifetime. You might think about different illnesses or diseases you’ve heard about or experienced. You might think about mental health. You might think about health topics you’ve seen in the news and media. You might think about how one becomes sick or unhealthy. You might think about healthcare systems and communicating with others about health. You might think about health insurance. You might think about different cures, remedies, medications one might use to get better. You might think about the types of medical professionals and healers who help with these ailments.

Through these reflections, you can see that health and wellness are extremely broad, multi-faceted concepts. You may also recognize that the nature and definition of “health” varies a great deal from person to person. These accounts and lived experiences are often unique and personalized. Many health topics may be referred to using different words and expressions, even within the same community. Moreover, in some cases, we learn about someone’s health through the accounts of others, such as a partner, other family member, or healthcare provider/healer. Yes, health is a very big topic!

As you begin to explore the areas of health and wellness in your documentation role, it is important to consider the many layers and systems that influence health. One model that can help visualize this information is the Social Ecological Model (SEM). Represented by a series of five concentric circles, the SEM acknowledges that one’s personal health is influenced by their individual-level traits such as demographic characteristics, biology, and genetics. However, health is hardly determined by these factors alone. The SEM illustrates that interpersonal relationships, organizations, communities, and policies impact and interact to shape health and wellness. These systems, and the factors that comprises these systems, are often referred to as the “social determinants of health.” The American College Health Association (ACHA) provides a helpful case example to illustrate how students’ health might change while they are enrolled in college.

While engaged in data collection and documentation, consider how these important factors play a role in global communities. The SEM can help to shape your data collection process, as well as your thematic findings.


Bronfrenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge: Harvard Press.

Cassidy, C., Bishop, A., Steenbeek, A., Langille, D., Martin-Misener, R., & Curran, J. (2018). Barriers and enablers to sexual health service use among university students: A qualitative descriptive study using the Theoretical Domains Framework and COM-B model. BMC Health Services Research, 18, 581 – 593.

Øen,G., Kvilhaugsvik,b., Eldal, K. & Halding, A. (2018). Adolescents’ perspectives on everyday life with obesity: a qualitative study. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 13(1), 1479581.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2011). Determinants of Health. Retrieved from: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/about/DOHAbout.aspx