Strategy Basics: Measuring Health

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Mark Lundegren

As you may know, I am in the final stages of preparing a book for publication, one that spans my seven Natural Strategy workshops.

An important theme in the book, and in my Natural Strategy method overall, is the idea that new health awareness can greatly and naturally improve our functioning, as individuals and groups of all kinds. Practically, a telling indicator of adequate health awareness is our ability to engage in progressive or increasingly rigorous and useful health measurement.

As is perhaps the case for you right now, both ideas are often unclear or uncertain proposals today, especially when first introduced. I would therefore like to spend a moment helping you to better understand the critical topics of health and its measurement, as an introduction to my Natural Strategy method, my workshops and upcoming book, and an important tool that you can immediately use.

Understanding Health

Let’s begin with a fairly simple definition of health. But let me also prepare you in advance for this definition. While simple, the definition may be new and unfamiliar, it is quite sweeping, and it may take time for you to consider.

Most of us of course use the term health all the time. But often we do not think carefully about what this word means. Because of health’s natural importance, and even its central role in natural functioning, I would encourage you to reflect on the idea of health more deeply than you might otherwise. Let me help you in this process with a question: if I characterized you, another person, a plant or animal, an organization, or a whole society as healthy, unhealthy, healthier, or less healthy, what do or might these words communicate?

I’ll challenge you to answer this important question for yourself, in both theory and practice. For many of us, if upon reflection, the word health describes a natural condition of things that increases their excellence, quality of functioning, or in the words of evolutionary scientists, fitness. Crucially, this quality-increasing attribute, whether called health or by another word, can be seen as extending across or applicable to all of the entities I listed above (and really across all of nature).

Somewhat more formally, but in the spirit of this popular or intuitive sense of health, we might describe the natural phenomenon we call health as a quality or set of attributes that reflects or determines the probability an entity will endure in time. As I said, this is a simple but also somewhat unintuitive idea, and a proposition that can take time to consider. And let me add that since the definition involves time, it implies endurance amidst future uncertainty or natural complexity, and therefore amidst the changes and challenges that naturally arise in most settings over time.

Let me also point out that this definition of health can be understood as implying a minimum or specific level of needed functioning. Such healthy functioning will vary with circumstances, but instructively can be seen as naturally becoming more difficult or challenging to maintain over time, or as requiring changing or advancing functioning, or what is often called adaptation, to assure ongoing health or endurance.

Again, this natural challenge of adaptation can be understood as owing to the fact of natural change and therefore the likelihood of at least different and perhaps ever-greater environmental challenges as time passes – whether via the wider random variations or the upward evolution that time naturally brings to most environments. In any case, all health levels or standards of functioning can be seen as increasable or alterable – often of necessity to maintain health over time, but also potentially more proactively to promote endurance and even accelerated adaptation or natural ascent in an environment.

Such required, naturally changing, and perhaps increasing states of functioning to ensure ongoing health or endurance might include maintaining life in the case of an organism, assuring a certain number of members in a group, or earning a particular return on capital in a business enterprise. In all of these cases, and most others, we can see that: 1) a set of requirements for health assurance or endurance exists for all evolving entities, 2) these requirements naturally occur amidst environmental change, 3) the requirements therefore naturally require change or progressivity for sustained health assurance, and 4) such standards of functioning might be deliberately and beneficially increased, in a process we might think of as accelerated adaptation.

Measuring Health

From this perhaps new, more careful, and far-reaching sense of health – which in essence defines health in terms of adaptation or adaptivity in time – a crucial consequence is that this definition allows us to more accurately measure and assess health in nearly any setting.

This is of course true retrospectively, since by definition certain specific standards (such as being alive, having 20+ members, or earning a 5% return on capital) can be judged to have been met to some degree over a given time period. But far more importantly, health measurement in this way is also possible prospectively or in advance, if equally by degrees. That is, the definition of health as endurance and thus adaptation in time allows us to directly probe, test, and discover measurable attributes that predict health or healthy future functioning, and even that predict increased or accelerated states of adaptive functioning as well.

As you might immediately sense, prospective health measurement is a complex topic. Indeed, a technical treatment of health prediction as I have described it is well beyond the scope of this discussion and even a nascent capacity of modern science today. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t immediately begin to achieve and act from a better sense how adaptive health might be assessed and measured – and ultimately predicted, pursued, and accelerated in both people and groups.

After all, consider the attributes that might naturally lend themselves to health assurance or environmental endurance – and then perhaps to accelerated health or adaptation – in many settings, over long periods of time, and amidst natural uncertainty or health challenges of varying and increasing intensity. A preliminary, quantifiable, and thus testable list of potential, all-purpose health attributes might include:

  • Stability
  • Engagement
  • Resourcefulness
  • Innovation
  • Learning

Once again, I would encourage you to think about and explore health on your own, perhaps by developing your own working list of potential and measurable health attributes – notably, ones relevant to you or a group with which you are affiliated.

Taking Action

With this likely new sense of the nature, naturalness, necessity, and opportunity of the quality we commonly call health, and with at least preliminary ideas of how it might be measured and predicted in advance, I hope you will feel empowered to use and benefit from our discussion.

Beginning with the idea of health as natural adaptiveness as I have described it, and with a rough but reasonable set of prospective health measures, my experience is that both individuals and groups can quickly act on and often can achieve significant leverage from this new perspective on all natural functioning.

You can of course assess this proposal, and immediately learn about both health and my Natural Strategy method, by formulating and testing one or more initiatives aimed at increasing your or your group’s current health levels, using your preliminary health measures or standards.

If you take this challenge of learning via action, definitely start small and focus primarily on achieving learning for future use at first. But with new learning, you can improve both your health measurements and the reliability of your initiatives, in a circular and compounding process of natural progressivity – a companion theme in my upcoming book, and a topic for another day.

Health & best wishes,

Mark

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