Model developed to evaluate spiritual health

NIHFW develops model to further health ministry's holistic health goals


Sonal Matharu | October 25, 2010

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health a state of “complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. But in India besides clinical interventions which target physical health, not much attention has been given to improve the mental and social well-being of individuals.

To add a new dimension to healing, the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), a central government institute for public health in the country, has devised a model through which spirituality can be evaluated and used as a way towards better health.

“In today’s world of globalisation, industrialisation and materialism, health is beyond medical fraternity. It is the overall well-being of individuals that is important,” Deoki Nandan, director, NIHFW, who has been instrumental in designing and promoting the spiritual health model, told Governance Now here on Monday.

He added that the health ministry has been trying to inculcate holistic approach to healthcare for a long time and through this research done by doctors and professors at NIHFW spirituality can help deal with mushrooming lifestyle problems like hypertension, diabetes, blood pressure and heart ailments in Indian cities.

“This practice can also be beneficial for people suffering from anxiety and depression. If spiritual health is included with professional counselling and medicines, then it will surely help,” said Dr S K Chaturvedi, consultant at NIHFW.

But spirituality must not be confused with religion, say researchers.

“Spirituality is separate from religious fanaticism. This model is not designed on lines of any religion and it does not encourage people to give up their comfortable lifestyles and live in isolation in search of peace. Some people find peace in art and music. Some are at peace with nature. Through the spiritual assessment, this model will help people improve their quality of life by encouraging them to stay away from evils like jealousy and anger and have a positive attitude towards life,” said Dr Neera Dhar, professor at NIHFW.

This is the first time that a scale to evaluate spiritual health has been designed in India. Such models, however, exist in the USA and the EU. The scale, called as the ‘spiritual quotient’, can be assessed by filling up a questionnaire which is then compared with the designed model. The questionnaire is divided in three main domains namely, cognitive, affective and behavioral. Cognitive will evaluate the person’s thinking level, affective will tell the feeling level and behavioral will assess the action level. Under these three domains, 18 indicators like compassion, philanthropy, inner peace, faith, creative imagination, humor and playfulness, control on jealousy, anger and human dignity have been identified. Each of these indicators has a set of questions, called items, making a total of 127 questions in all. A gap assessment is done after evaluating individual performance based on the score of answers under these sub-heads. With the result one can identify which stage of spiritual behavior needs improvement.

Representatives with the NIHFW can later orient people on how to improve their spiritual health by results of their cognitive, affective and behavioral domains. The spiritual health indicators are identified on the basis of related literature, teachings of philosophers and health professionals, said Dr Dhar.

The published report of the model will be out within a year and it will be sent to the health ministry, the WHO, schools’ counselling cells, hospitals and public health institutes.



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