Survival crisis is a new theory about health and medicine 
A new way of thinking about health and medicine
By Walter Sorochan HSD, MPH, MSc, BPE, Emeritus Professor San Diego State University

Posted October 25, 2023 Disclaimer  

A new theory of health is founded on three levels of survival needs: optimal, survival and crisis. Survival is a new way of thinking about health, life, medicine and the health care system. It challenges the dimensional based World Health Organization theory of health based on dimensions or ideas.
Scientists have identified the essential needs for human survival as sunlight; oxygen; water; sleep; food; and  socialization; values; morality; and plasticity as the foundation for survival. Using survival as the foundation, wellness is simplified into three major levels: optimal wellness, survival wellness and crisis wellness. This approach replaces the medical perception of health as physiological benchmark definitions. Wellbeing is simplified so that common folk can relate to and understand health as it works in their everyday life.

The current practice of medicine, based on WHO model of health, needs to change to the survival theory in order to deal with the chronic disease crisis.

The most important and overlooked survival need is sunlight. 1  It was the sun millions of years ago that initially provided the energy and spark to evolve plant-bacteria, known as blue-green algae or spirulina. This form of hybrid algae organism used sunshine to make its own food and be able to survive.  2   Eventually, spirulina gave rise to plants and fish with lungs that, in turn, evolved as animals and homo sapiens.  3   4   Plants, in turn, provided the food for animals and humans.

Ancient people did not understand the process of sunshine ultraviolet B radiation being captured by cholesterol cells of the human skin as vitamin D and then being converted in the liver into hormone D. But they felt good surviving in the sunshine when hormone D regulated over 300 functions in their body, like on/off metabolic and genetic switches.  5

The main point to be recognized is that without essential sunshine, there would be no plants, no food, no surviving species and no life.

Priority for health: Life started with the sun. Ancient people felt good hunting, working and living in the sun. It was exposure to sunshine over millions of years that helped them become stronger and be able to survive.

Ancient civilizations were aware that their survival was somehow linked to the sun's energy, but lacked the science to understand the sun and earth relationship. They were aware that the sun was essential to their survival and gave the sun Godlike, mystic powers.  6   Sunshine harnessed the process of photosynthesis so plants could make food. The process of photosynthesis was modified so humans could capture the sun's energy with skin cholesterol and synthesize hormone D.  7

Ancient people gradually banded together as tribes to hunt for food and protection from their enemies. Unfortunately, living close together contributed to communicable diseases, plagues, often poor health and death. It is only in the past 100 years that humans found better health and lived longer, due mainly to improved sanitation, waste removal, water treatment, better nutrition, available health care services and improved vaccination technology. All of these contributed to the control of communicable diseases, being healthy and surviving to live longer.  8

Thus, freedom from disease and infection was viewed as being well and healthy. This gave rise in 1948 to World Health Organization [WHO] definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity".  9

However, being well or healthy was an ambiguous term that was difficult to measure and simply ignores the real changes taking place in the body each day.

As Norman Sartorius, in his 2006 article, "The Meanings of Health and its Promotion," printed in Croatian Medical Journal and recorded in National Library of Medicine, points out that: WHO spawned the view that persons may be viewed as healthy and free of diseases, or function in life giving the illusion of appearing healthy while incubating chronic diseases at the same time.  10

Other medical doctors, statistician Delbert Dunn  11, perceived wellness as ever changing, oriented toward maximizing the potential of which the individual is capable; Bill Hettler,  12   proposed Six Dimensions of Wellness in his 1976 health model that included occupational, physical, social, intellectual, spiritual and emotional health; and John Travis   13  proposed 12 dimensions of wellness: self-responsibility and love, breathing, sensing, eating, moving, feeling, thinking, playing and working, communicating, sex, finding meaning, and transcending. The theories of Hettler and Travis were proposed on the basis of psychological and social dimensions.

The problem with these wellness theories as dimensions has been that these lacked substance or foundation, were subjective individual ideas that were theoretical, borrowed from psychology and sociology, abstract in nature, had confounding and comingling factors, were difficult to isolate and were difficult or impossible to measure. Adding to this ineptness is the research done by V.P. van Druten, and his associates in 2022 about the different interpretations of health between health care providers and consumers of health.  14

One way to improve the approach to better health care is to simplify the meaning of health for the general population. Sorochan proposes a theory of wellness based on the foundation of survival and not dimensions or ideas.

 Sartorius' noted that a flaw with wellness and health promotion  15  gives serious consideration to Dunn's continuum wellness levels which have been simplified into three levels of wellness. This approach replaces the medical perception of health as physiological benchmark definitions.

The new theory simplifies health into three levels:

  • Optimal wellness or perfect health is being free of most if not all illness, disability and disease, which may be a rarity. Chances are many persons harbor a single disorder or illness for a short period of time, such as the flu', healing it and some time later becoming ill with another illness. They may vacillate for short periods from wellbeing to feeling sick but not suffering from a chronic disease. Almost perfect health!
  • Survival wellness occurs when the body slides to incubating a disorder or disease and would be classified as in a survival mode of wellness. Most persons vacillate at this level, probably harboring at least one body health problem, often incubate a second disorder or disease and not be aware of it. Of course, this would also depend on one's physical fitness, body weight, diet and so on. Still functioning but with less gusto, vigor, doing less and living less. For example, when more than 50 percent of the population is chronically obese or overweight but functioning, then such persons would be classified in a survival wellness mode. Existing!
  • Crisis wellness is the lowest level of wellbeing. An example would be a person bed-ridden or disabled with a disease, hanging on to life. Barely surviving but not really functioning. Almost dying!

This is a realistic common sense way of understanding health and wellbeing that is based on everyday living. Wellbeing is simplified so that common folk can relate to and understand health as it works in their everyday life. Optimal Life, survival wellness and crisis wellness!

Most persons would be classified as in the second category, that of survival wellness. This survival category needs further explanation:

Survival-wellness:  16   What happens in survival wellbeing? An interesting, as yet unexplained phenomenon of the human machine, is that the human body is able to adapt in a mysterious way like homeostasis, with no present signs or symptoms of mineral or vitamin imbalance resulting in a disorder. The adaptation utilizes amino acids, vitamins and minerals to fill in the missing information-healing gaps. And probably borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, as robbing bones for calcium or/and magnesium! Such adaptation will, in time, result in failed body systems. A person may go through his/her entire life nutritionally deficient or unbalanced and not know it while socializing, enjoying physical, mental and emotional activities. During this seemingly well time, depending on the severity of lack of nutritional balance, one may never become severely ill, while other factors are present that contribute to incubating diseases; such as emotional stresses, environmental toxins, nutrient deficiencies, processed foods, and so on and the body balancing these out with overall low level survival wellness. The classic example of the body's ability to survive, for several months with a major deficiency, is that of sailors on ancient sailing ships subsisting on a diet deficient in fresh fruits and vegetables [vitamin C], that gradually caused scurvy symptoms in sailors before vitamin C was discovered. Another is many persons working in homes and lacking sunshine and hormone D. Today, many suffer from deficient nutrition similar to that of sailors long ago and not realize it, as the human body is a marvelous machine that compensates for man's indiscretions; and hangs on to survive.

This new perception of uncertain and often hidden survival-health is very different from all the establishment theories stating that health is a balance of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing and the absence of illness or disease.  17,  18,  19   

There is no balance and most persons silently harbor and incubate disorders and diseases! These established theories overlooked the precision and delicate balance of nutrient fine tuning or nutrient balancing, that, in turn, could result in optimal wellbeing or, if deficient, incubate disease states. It is safe to say that if there are no visible signs of chronic disease, that most persons and medical doctors would assume such a person to be healthy. However, in real life, the body of a person appearing to be in good health and functioning, may not necessarily be well; the degree of wellbeing is compensated, hidden and medically undiagnosed.

The foundation for this new theory is based on survival needs of homo sapiens over thousands of years. LibreTexts Medicine   20  states that there are eight requirements for survival: "air, water, food, shelter, sanitation, touch, sleep and personal space," although these were not prioritized. Listing these eight basic human needs in a medical text adds credibility to the proposed theory. Survival needs for this proposed theory are: sunshine, oxygen, water, sleep, food, socialization, shelter, values, morality and plasticity. Scientists prioritize these in importance as primary, secondary and tertiary survival needs.

Primary survival need : The sun is the top priority need of all living things, including homo sapiens,  21  although most persons do not perceive the sun as an essential human need. It is the sun that supplies the energy to make plant food.

Secondary essential survival needs: as oxygen from clean air, water, sleep and food.

A quick comment about how these secondary four needs affect people in the world today. These four essential for survival needs are taken for granted in most parts of the world. We seldom think about needing oxygen to survive unless one lives in air polluted Asian countries like China and India. We can survive for about 10 minutes without oxygen. Water is a major survival need in desert countries and where the water supply is polluted but we can survive for about two days without water. Going without sleep for one day causes confusion, loss of alertness and irritability. Go without sleep for two or more days and you can die. We can survive without food for about 28 days.

Although food as a carbohydrate source of energy may help prevent starvation, it is the lack of quality nutrients that is contributing to many chronic diseases today. Although people living in many advanced nations have food, many are nutrient malnourished. This is a new form of survival concern that is related to chronic diseases caused by eating bad food. People survive with food but incubate chronic diseases.

Third level survival needs: Socialization, shelter, values, morality and plasticity evolved as mankind banded together socially for protection; eventually realizing the need to control its members with values and morality in order to continue surviving [as ancient Romans did]. During these periods of survival episodes, the human brain evolved as an advanced form of survival such as thinking and solving problems. Today, the brain needs excitement from new experiences and adventures. Advancements in high nanotechnology since 2000 have allowed scientists to learn about this mystic brain power as plasticity. Plasticity is an advanced form of fine tuned and higher level survival.   22

The human body has been programmed to sustain life and this is what we refer to as survival.   23   

The degree or limit of survival is based on health or how well one is. Classic example of those surviving in a limited way are obese persons. They survive with a chronic disease, function in society, but seldom attain potential optimal wellbeing.

Living with a disease is not being on the same health level as someone without a disease. There is a biblical saying - "How great thou art!" .... but to be great you need optimal wellness. Otherwise, if you are sick or harboring a disease, you are functioning at a survival wellness level. At this sickness level, you do less and live less. Just living a subsistence lifestyle does not 'cut it'. One needs to maximize the inner potential for optimal wellbeing and excellence!

You should be aware that you can survive a "lingering" or "survival" life for many months and years with inadequate amounts of nutrients, sunshine, and physical activity.   24  25

Your body has a great ability to compensate when nutrients are in short supply. It does so by your natural body maintenance - healing process. You probably will have signs and symptoms of poor health but not pay much attention to these signs. Such signs and symptoms can persist for months and years, slowly incubating a dysfunction or illness that, if not healed, eventuates into a chronic disease. You function at a lower survival level of wellness while all these bodily happenings are taking place. As a somewhat handicapped person, you live less, do less and not realize it!   26

A medical health crisis? 

The accepted WHO model of health, as practiced by medicine, has been successful in treating communicable diseases .... but it has been a failure in dealing with the chronic disease crisis. Dr. Frank Lipman   27  gives credibility to simplifying the concept of medicine and health:

"The problem is that although most of us are not permanently in a "health crisis”, this crisis [medical] care model is being used to treat every health problem or symptom as if it is the only health care model we have. Most of us are not sick enough to be in hospital, and by far the majority of people who visit their doctor, do so for ongoing chronic problems like diabetes, heart disease and obesity; or less-defined disorders like joint pains, back pains, fatigue and headaches."

We need to change from a disease care system to a health care system. The proposed theory of survival wellness can help do this.


1 Haselhurst Geoff, "Importance of sunshine," On Truth & Reality.  Haselhurst: Importance of sunshine

2 Faluweki Mixon and Jan Cammann, "Scientists explain unique formation of ancient algae that evolved photosynthesis and oxygenated our planet," Physical Review Letters, October 13, 2023.  Trent U. Scientists Explain Cyanobacteria’s Weblike Structures 2023

3 Morton Mary Caperton, "Evolution of eyes, not limbs, led fish onto land," Earth June 19, 2017. Morton: Evolution fish onto land 2017

4 Downs Jason and Farish Jenkins, Jr, "Details of Evolutionary Transition from Fish to Land Animals Revealed," NationalScience Foundation, October 15, 2008.  Downs: Fish to land animals revealed 2008

5 Norman Anthony W., "From vitamin D to hormone D: Fundamentals of the vitamin D endocrine system essential for good health 1,2,3,4," American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 2008. Norman: Fundamentals of vitamin D endocrine system 2008

6 Wigington Patti, "Sun worship," Thought C.,  Wigington: Sun worship

7 Wikipedia, "Vitamin D." Wikipedia vitamin D

8 Tulchinsky Theodore H and Elena A. Varavikova, "A history of public health," NIH, October 10, 2014.  Tulchinsky: History of public health 2014

9 WHO, "WHO definition of health," April 7, 1948.  WHO: Health definition 1948

10 Sartorius Norman, The Meanings of Health and its Promotion, Croat Med J. 2006 Aug; 47(4): 662–664.    Sartorius: Meaning of health 2006

11 Dunn, H. L. (1961). High-level wellness. Arlington, VA: R. W. Beatty.

12 Hettler Bill, "The Six Dimensions of Wellness Model,"1976.  Hettler: Wellness model 1976

13 Travis, J. W., & Ryan, R. S. (1981; 1988). Wellness workbook (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press. 1991.  Travis: Wellness workbook 1991

14 van Druten, V.P., Bartels, E.A., van de Mheen, D. et al. "Concepts of health in different contexts: a scoping review," BMC Health Serv, 2022, Res 22, 389.  van Druten: Concepts of health 2022

15 Satorius, 2006.

16 Park Alice, "Treating cancer with bacteria shows real promise," Time magazine, August 13, 2014.  Park: treating cancer with bacteria 2014

17 WHO, 1948.

18 Hettler, 1978

19 Travis, 1991

20 LibreTexts Medicine, "Eight survival needs,"  LibreTexts Medicine: Eight survival needs

21 UCSB, "Do we need sun to survive?" UCSD ScienceLine, November 24, 2005.  UCSD: Sun to survive 2005 

22 Sorochan Walter, "Plasticity,", December 8, 2018.  Sorochan: Plasticity 2018

23 Bryant Charles W., "Are humans wired to survive?" How Stuff Works,  Bryant: humans wired to survive

24 Park 2014

25 The Anstendig Institute, "The body as machine," 1982.  Anstendig Institute: Body as a machine 1982

26 Ward B W, Schiller JS, Goodman RA., "Multiple Chronic Conditions Among US Adults," A 2012 Update. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:130389.  Ward: Chronic diseases 2014

27 Lipman Frank, "Changing Our Disease Care System To A Health Care System," The Huffington Post, November 17, 2011.  Lipman: Changing health care system 2011