One of the problems with modern healthcare is that, at least in my experience, it tends to treat each person as a set of disparate symptoms. This is particularly true of specialists: your neurologist doesn’t want to know about any gynaecological issues, and your skin specialist isn’t interested in your eye problems.
But of course we are just one person, and our health issues are intrinsically interlinked. So the medication my neurologist gives me may well have gynaecological repercussions. A general practitioner should be looking at the total person, but they are often busy, and cure focused. So they usually aren’t going to have time to address things like diet, exercise, or stress management, at least in anything other than a cursory way. That’s why Essence of Health is such an important book. Designed primarily for training health practitioners, it uses the “ESSENCE” acronym to remind practitioners to take a more holistic, integrative perspective on health.
The book is also structured so that it can be used by individuals to help improve their own health and well-being, and it’s quite simple to use, but the fact that it seems to be addressing a professional practitioner can make it a little jarring for the layperson with his or her own interests or family interests in mind. This is only a minor complaint though, as the information it contains is still valuable, and probably more so if it is actually taken up by GPs.
The core of the book is the “Seven Pillars of Wellbeing”: education, stress management, spirituality, exercise, nutrition, connectedness, and environment. Part one of the book goes through each of these areas, providing information on their importance, and the impact on health when one of these pillars goes wrong. Some of the areas, such as stress management and nutrition, contain a staged 8 week program towards improvement, with daily practices - a hint of the final program which provides an 8 week program for everything. Other areas, such as spirituality or connectedness, are reminders that certain aspects of our lives such as how we feel about our lives, or our relationships, are equally important to our health. Hassed treats spirituality in its broadest sense, and doesn't refer to any specific faith. It's more about having a sense of meaning and purpose. Part two of the book looks specifically at how behaviour can best be changed, and it contains a number of effective tools like SMART goal setting, working on behaviours and attitudes, and keeping a journal. There is nothing new about these tools, but Hassed puts them in the context of how they can be used in conjunction with "ESSENCE".