People plunged into a serious health crisis typically can’t pause to take a deep breath, never mind take a step back to reflect.
So to help look at all the ways in which people heal, more in the aftermath than in the midst of critical medical moments, we turned to someone who has reflected deeply, throughout a long career, to describe the similarities—and differences—between “health” and “healing.”
Dr. Archelle Georgiou, of Minneapolis, is a storyteller, former healthcare industry executive and author of Healthcare Choices, a book on medical decision-making. Although she emphasizes there is no universal definition of words so essential to CaringBridge users, we believe Dr. Georgiou has captured the essence. In her own words:
“The root word for ‘health’ and ‘healing’ is the same.
“They are both derived from the Old English word ‘hale,’ meaning ‘wholeness, being whole, sound or well.’ While health and healing are complementary, the definitions of these words are completely different.
“The most broadly accepted definition of ‘health,’ as established by the World Health Organization: ‘A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ Health is a noun.
“Healing is a verb. It refers to the process of restoring health. And, just as the definition of health is multi-dimensional, the range of healing processes is equally broad.
“Healing can refer to the physiologic processes that mend an injury, and also to the emotional, spiritual, or psychological processes that relieve stress, achieve acceptance, and promote hope.
“Understanding the difference between health and healing is important—not just as a matter of grammar, but because it is empowering.
“Healing is about taking action. It includes the body’s repair mechanisms, the interventions of clinical professionals, as well as the behaviors you engage in that positively influence your health.
“While health is an outcome, healing is a choice.”