Monday, September 1, 2008

Quality or Quantity of Life?

While visiting family this weekend I ended up getting into a very interesting discussion about peoples' different views of what "quality of life" means. For one person, having high quality of life (or QoL) could mean being able to enjoy life's pleasures -- food, drink, sex, etc. To the hedonist, diet and exercise may be perceived as lowering QoL rather than as means to improve it. For another person, QoL may reflect the need for purpose or strong relationships and friendships. It could mean being happy and living a care-free life. I think QoL is a complex concept that can mean different things for different people. However, from a public health perspective there must be underlying concepts that can be measured and intervened upon in order to improve peoples' QoL. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses a series of questions called the "Healthy Days Measures" to evaluate the health-related QoL of populations. This measure is widely used in surveys, and is a tool to evaluate the nation's progress toward the Healthy People 2010 goals of
1) Increasing quality and years of healthy life, and 
2) eliminating health disparities.
In public health we must find a way to balance our desire to promote longevity with improving the life people live as long as they are here with us. What are your thoughts on prioritizing resources that improve quantity versus quality of life?

No comments: