Halbert L. Dunn, M.D. (1896–1975) was the leading figure in establishing a national vital statistics system in the United States and is known as the “father of the wellness movement”
Dr. Dunn introduced the concept of wellness (or high-level wellness) in a series of twenty-nine lectures he gave at the Unitarian Church in Arlington County, Virginia in the late 1950s. Those lectures provided the basis for his book, High Level Wellness, which was published in 1961. The book was reissued in a number of editions but did not have a great deal of immediate impact. It did, however, come into the hands of a number of the future leaders of wellness and holistic health movement that bloomed more than a decade later, such as Don B. Ardell, Robert Russell, John Travis, and Elizabeth Neilson.
Four events in the mid-1970s broadened the impact of Dunn’s ideas. First, John Travis opened the first US wellness center (Mill Valley, CA, 1975). This center and other organizations were then described in Don Ardell’s 1976 book, using Dunn’s title (giving Dunn due credit for his origination of the title and concept). Then Elizabeth Neilson founded the journal Health Values: Achieving High Level Wellness (renamed the American Journal of Health Promotion in 1996), which was dedicated to Dunn and reprinted one of his papers in its first edition. Lastly, the publisher of Health Values, Charles B. Slack, Inc., published a reprint edition of Dunn’s High Level Wellness that achieved a wider distribution and impact.