Last time we defined Risk Management and how the process looks when implemented. In this post we will define a few other terms that are commonly used when discussing risk management and how they can be applied to health.
1. What is Risk?
According to risk management theory, risk is the positive or negative effect of uncertainty on objectives. Please note the very specific use of the term objectives in this definition. Its import will become apparent soon. For risk to be present, there must be, a critical asset that is worth protecting and a vulnerability that can be exploited, and a threat that will exploit that vulnerability. In terms of health, risk can be introduced in a variety of ways. It starts with your genetic endowment, family history and propensity for disease, and moving onto food consumption patterns, social history, lifestyle activities, and living, working, and recreational environments. Anything that you do in your life has the potential to create a positive or negative impact on your most valuable asset, your health.
Those things that negatively affect your health are mostly apparent, but as more and more secrets of the human body are unearthed, we are discovering that the things we take for granted are actually causing us harm. Some examples include, stress, reckless driving, excessively eating processed foods, lack of adequate rest and sleep, inadequate housing and much more.
Things that positively impact and have a protective effect on health include the opposite of those mentioned, and in addition, managing medical problems that are present, educating oneself and being proactive about identifying potential threats and managing them effectively. For example, if there is a family history of early death from heart disease, then knowing the factors that cause heart disease and the ways to avoid developing heart disease is important.
2. What is uncertainty?
Anything wherein the outcome is not for sure; where there is some measure of doubt, the likelihood of chance impacting outcome, variability, and unreliability. Sounds like the very definition of living.
The outcome of everything we do is uncertain. Even mathematical equations are subject to uncertainty, which we accept for simplicity. One plus one does not always equal two. Rounding and what you are adding matters!
In health matters, uncertainty is rife. Even the most learned medical professionals are not absolutely certain about the efficacy of medications, tests, or disease states. We have a working knowledge of how the body works and what medications and treatments have been effective for a small group of people, but everyday things change. Our understanding of how the body works is refined by new research findings and discoveries, and slowly, so will our methods of managing disease states.
3. What is an objective?
A stated purpose that is precise, concrete, narrowly defined, and tangible. Basically, something to which the answer to whether it was achieved is clear and can be readily agreed upon.
In terms of health, objectives rather that goals are more important. Objectives hold you accountable in the short term, and demands commitment and action. Unlike goals objectives have no gray areas for discussion. Either you have met your objective or not.
Some common objectives include, taking medications as prescribed, losing 50 pounds by August 31st, 2014; visiting a massage therapist once per week; asking your doctor five questions about your health during your next appointment; getting off all medications. The list is endless.
4. What is a goal?
A stated purpose that is more broadly defined, general in scope, and intangible. There is no absolutely correct answer. Rather, outcomes are based on subjectivity and personal interpretation.
For example, perform a dinner table survey about what each person deems to be a healthy lifestyle and note the variability present. Goals are personal and subjective.
Health related goals can include making a decision to live a stress free life; having a normal laboratory assessment at your next annual checkup; exercising most days of the week; living a robust, disease- free life. This list is also endless.
Next time, we will define a series of tasks to get you started on applying risk management strategies to your personal health situation so that you can change your health future, and that of your family.