How are you, really? Take a Personal Health Inventory

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How are you, really? Take a Personal Health Inventory


Unless you own a business, you might not have thought much about this term or what it represents. “Taking inventory” means looking at what you have, deciding what else you need, and figuring out what to discard.

Taking inventory is critical to operating a healthy business. If you neglect it, you risk not having enough of what you need or wasting space storing items you don’t. While it might sound unusual, the same is true for our bodies.

Taking inventory of your health

Taking our Personal Health Inventory (PHI) works similarly. This free, downloadable tool was created for health care providers to use with patients, but you can also use it on your own. You can do the PHI in as few as 10 minutes, or spend much more time with it. This tool can help you identify both potential problems and personal strengths to use now.

The PHI asks you to rate how well you feel in different areas, from 1 (not good) to 5 (honestly, pretty great!). You can make a note of how many days in the past month you felt well or about what matters most in your life.

There are no right or wrong answers on the PHI. If you’re not checking “5 – Excellent” on every question that asks you to rate how you’re doing, congratulations! You’re like most people. The goal of the PHI is to help you identify areas where you might need to talk to your doctor or think more deeply about what’s going on in your life. At the end of the PHI, you can select up to three areas of life you’d like to work on. You do not need to choose three – just no more than that. (Working on too many areas in your life to work on can sometimes be overwhelming and lead to frustration instead of success.) You may notice your choices lining up with areas of life that you scored lower. For example, if you scored 3 in the “Moving” category, you might find yourself checking “Moving” in the area for making changes. 

Improving whole person health with the PHI

When you take a whole person approach to your health, seeing how different areas of the PHI connect can give you powerful insights. How you scored a certain area of life gives you key information on physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. For example:

  • Feeling isolated (lower Social Support score) could contribute to depression or unhealthy habits.
  • Not getting quality sleep (lower Sleep score) can cause or worsen physical, mental, and emotional issues.
  • A lack of meaning or purpose in life (low Purpose score) could affect how you approach taking care of your health and other areas of life.

How to start making changes

It can be hard to know where to start if you’re looking to change behaviors that are currently causing you stress, such as difficulty sleeping, eating meals that will benefit your overall health, adding movement to your routine, and many other issues. We have put together a wide variety of resources to help start you on your journey to making changes for your health. For example:

Sharing the PHI with your doctor

You’re likely to learn something from taking inventory of your health. Why not share it with your doctor? Yes, your primary health care provider is busy, but they usually ask, “Is there anything else we should talk about today?” If not, you can bring it up. You might say, “I did a health inventory recently, and I realized I’d like to eat healthier [or whatever else stood out to you]. Could we talk about that for a minute?” Offer to make another appointment to discuss it.

Other ways to bring up information from your PHI:

  • Take a few notes. Before your appointment, jot down any key insights, concerns, or questions the PHI brought up. Having notes helps you stay focused and avoid forgetting what you wanted to mention.
  • Use a (simple) timeline. If you’ve struggled with stress management, for example, note when you think it started and how long it’s been going on. This helps your doctor understand how this challenge has developed and identify possible patterns.
  • Set priorities. If you have several things to discuss, put them in order of how urgent or important they are. This way, you make sure the most pressing matters are addressed first during your limited appointment time.

Ways to share your concerns outside an in-person appointment

You can schedule a separate appointment or video call to talk about health concerns. Having one main concern or top priority, such as sleep or stress, will help your doctor categorize the visit for insurance purposes.

Finally, most of us can email our health care providers these days. If you have non-urgent concerns, try putting them in a secure email using your patient portal. Don’t have access yet? Call your doctor’s office to ask about emailing. Caution: Don’t email anything urgent, such as chest pain or trouble breathing. Email is for non-urgent questions only, because it can take a day or so for someone to respond.

Remember, health care providers appreciate patients who are organized, concise, and respect their time. Presenting your thoughts in an organized way helps you have a more productive conversation – and that leads to better results for you.

It’s all connected

Whole person health tells us that physical symptoms are influenced and driven by emotional stress, social factors, mental conditions, and spirituality. Taking inventory of your health can help you make connections and, from there, create your own map for whole-person health. Best of all, the personal health inventory is free. I encourage you to try this simple but meaningful way to invest in your wellbeing.