THE EDUCATIONAL VALUE of the STUDY OF HEALTH AND HISTORY

By Sean Kloppenburg


 

I F you have a one note (a U.S. dollar in this case), I encourage you to take it out and follow along. On the left is the pyramid, which is something we all at one point or another knew about, but did not quite understand exactly what it is, or why it is there. It is like seeing something with your mind's eye, but lack the context in which you see it. This is the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. The pyramid is unfinished and above it says, “Annuit Coeptis” which means "…he/she/it favors our undertakings…" (1). The pyramid is meant to be unfinished because the idea is that this country is unfinished and it always will be. In the role of citizen, this phrase suggests not just a right, but also a duty to intentionally pursue the optimal outcome by discussing and debating; which is the essence of exertion. Annuit Coeptis is like most Latin phrases and words in the rule of law, it is highly interpretable. In my case, it says 'read between the lines' and in broad-brush strokes 'read with diversity as to freshen your perspective'. Hence, in this first blog I will be combining the study of history with the study of health. A combination of scholarly disciplines that, in equal parts, provide a foundation to educate for happiness.

I have taken it upon myself to step into the proper light of being a health professional by not only reading secondary data sources, but also primary data sources. Meaning, instead of reading just the summary journals that are sent to me for my certification(s) I must go beyond that and also read the original study. In our current times, this word “study” is the modern proverbial of correctness and authenticity; it is synonymous with the image of truth, yet those who accept facts backed by a “study” rarely read the original study themselves. This is similar to a giant phone game where, by the time the message gets back to the original person, the message could be completely garbled. It is probably the most widely used word that I hear when people are trying to make a point. Especially when it comes to health. When you look for it, you will hear the common phrases like, “there is a study…” or “a recent study showed…”. In this case, when one states a fact – from a study – we are really using history to inform our present decisions. This is why I found it beneficial and fascinating to combine these two topics for this post. History, if not properly understood, could become a burden. And when learning a new health trend without the proper information of the past, a person runs the risk of delving into a health trend that is not only outdated, but potentially unfounded.

Let's begin…

In order to do justice to the claims of historical study, it can never be necessary for us to depreciate those of any other branch of learning. Properly considered, there is no such thing as rivalry between different spheres of knowledge; only emulation, a noble and helpful emulation. All real knowledge is good, being in one way or another a source of power and happiness. The various realms of things known or knowable are but co-equal fraternal states in that vast confederation which we may call the republic of science. No single member of this confederation is strong, none is sufficient, standing alone. Each is necessary to all, all are necessary to each. 

While, therefore, no one study may assert for itself the whole of what is valuable, every study doubtless has its own special value; and this value, as in the cases of a study like history, it may sometime be worth our while to place clearly before our minds, modestly, tolerantly, and for the rightful purpose of forming a just idea of the particular good we ought to expect and to work for, in our pursuit of it. (2)

Absolutely fantastic writing. This is an introduction to the eight volume series Library of Universal History. Browsing the more obscure books in my mother’s library, I stumbled upon the series with fascination. I later found out that this eight volume set is from (and probably before) when my grandmother immigrated from Europe.  Just imagine, this set comes straight out of a scene in a large Downton Abbey library. That introduction was from a very learned man by the name of Moses Coit Tyler, a professor of history in the nineteenth century (3). His writing includes a sense of directness. He has clarity and that is something that a health education organization must aspire for, because that is exactly what is lacking in the world of health. Rarely is there a clear direct explanation on health issues of the day. Now, I find it important to also address that as the knowledge of health is evolving, in some ways, it is impossible to not find the nebulous explanations on what “good” health is. Hence studying the history of your health and of the health world at large is imperative. Understand that health behavior is multifaceted. It is a complicated soup of geo-demographical-socio-political-metaphysical implications that are impacted by all levels of an individuals’ Social-Ecological Model. This is why in this post I will be talking about the six dimensions of wellness in combination with Moses Coit Tyler. The wellness dimensions are one of the few non-sectarian guides to living a healthy life that I have come across and Moses wrote a fantastic saga for reasons to study history. A saga that I think can be applied to any subject; and studying these dimensions is apart of that.


 The six aspects of wellness are in the picture below.

The Six Aspects of Wellness

The Six Aspects of Wellness

Notice this is a Venn-diagram. A Venn-diagram implies that all aspects are intertwined and have a relationship with each other. This might be familiar to some and more or less obvious.

To gauge if someone is doing well or not which of the spheres is the most easily noticeable? The answer would be physically. We go into the doctor and they do a physical assessment of you. From this one can conclude with tacit certainty that the body and mind, for example, are not like your car. If you have a radiator problem you go fix the radiator problem, your not going to start looking at the oil pan to see what’s wrong with the radiator. Medical science functions much in the same way today. They treat us to a certain extent, like a car. If you have a hormonal problem, or a blood sugar problem, and you go to the doctor, and he says, “Oh, you have a blood sugar problem.” Is it possible that the blood sugar problem might be caused by something else? That seemingly has nothing to with blood sugar? (4).

Let's take a very common problem. Depression. It affects everything right? What would you say the best remedy for depression is? There have been studies that show that physical exercise affects depression in a way that helps you move away from being depressed (and there I go, I just did the fabled “there is a study” quote). So the focus here is that when you're depressed, it obviously interacts with your emotional sphere; however it also affects our physical sphere, and eventually our social sphere too. That’s just one example. Take injury, loss, or any other form of stress.

Sadly, this whole concept of the “dimensions of wellness” is a bit of an esoteric and eclectic idea. It is so vast that it attracts all kinds of professions and people. This is especially true in the case of alternative medicines. Not that this category of medicine is poor, it just tends to lack a strong discernment. Practitioners in this world tend to be quick to drawn out correlations into causations. For example, I am not here to suggest that cell phone waves are killing your ear lobe cells, which is lowering your ability to grow hair on your head – or any other evidence lacking conclusion such as that. I am suggesting to use this Venn-diagram as a template; as a means to arrive at your optimal level of what healthy means. Optimal here means that your “healthy” level of physical wellness might not necessarily be another’s optimal level. And that goes for all the individual spheres, which in the end may mean using alternative medicine. 

As Tyler says – it would be a waste to have indiscriminate memorizing of historical facts, but rather try your knowledge and compare it with new knowledge. A check and balance of sorts, whereby the knowledge is constantly being refreshed. Hence, read this blog and dissect it. Compare it to your own experience.

I find it very helpful to look upon my life through the lens of wellness. It helps me make decisions that are related to what is healthy and what is not. Moreover, it makes health personal, which is exactly what Exertion is trying to do – we're here to make health relevant; where relevance come from appreciation. I want to encourage you to do your own self-exploration through this lens. Find where you are lacking and pursue where you want more "annuit copetis" in your dimensions wellness.


Bibliography

(1) Annuit Coeptis. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annuit_cœptis

(2) Clare, I. S. (1898). Library of Universal History; containing a record of the human race from the earliest historical period to the present time, embracing a general survey of the progress of mankind in national and social life, civil government, religion, literature, science and art (1st ed., Vol. 1 Ancient Oriental Nations). New York: R.S. Peale, J.A. Hill.

(3) Moses Coit Tyler. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Coit_Tyler

(4) Olpin, Michael. "Introduction to Wellness - What Is Wellness." YouTube. YouTube, 24 Aug. 2011. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.