Thriving as a North Star for Community Well-Being

Why measure well-being?

The social determinants of health emerged in the early 2000s as a framework for thinking about our physical health in a new way that acknowledged that it is strongly impacted by economic and social conditions. Over the last decade, and especially more recently, the field has expanded this thinking in a number of ways, including a strong emphasis on the interconnectedness of our mental and physical health, as well as the importance of equity considerations. The term “health” is now often used in conjunction with the term “well-being”, and Healthy People 2030’s definition of health and well-being is: “how people think, feel, and function—at a personal and social level—and how they evaluate their lives as a whole.”

This updated approach to health and well-being has led to many positive impacts in the way we think about advancing equitable community well-being. It has also created a new challenge: how to measure health and well-being aside from the traditional approach of examining health outcomes alone. The science of thriving is using an equitable data and measurement system to assess the degree to which people and communities are thriving, one that brings to light inequities and values how people think and feel about their own lives. Measuring well-being can inform a path forward towards all people and places thriving—no exceptions.

What is the relationship between well-being and health?

Emerging evidence suggests that well-being is a protective factor against disease and is tied to extending life expectancy. By closely monitoring self-reported well-being, we can get a pulse of our communities, implement early interventions when needed, and tailor interventions accordingly. In fact, an effort is underway to create a measure of Well Being Adjusted Life Years, which combines life expectancy and well-being to underscore the reinforcing nature of well being and health.

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