“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Who could argue with that?
In 1948 the World Health Organisation developed this definition of health: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Who could argue with that? But how much do we invest in the whole concept of health and well-being; preferring instead to invest in fix-it models of healthcare? We know how to do this after all….or do we really? Yes healthcare helps to reduce symptoms, occasionally even affects a cure-although more likely a move from an acute to a chronic condition-it provides opportunities to extend quantity and hopefully quality of life and sometimes it even relieves pain and suffering. So it’s important to have these drugs, therapies and treatments to improve our options and by extension our lives. But what is clear to me is that, this is not enough to enable well-being at a personal or community level.
Does it really make sense to give priority only to healthcare (and we could argue whether even that is enough) when the things that effect health are under so much pressure. When the words “housing crisis” have become common place, when we have more waged than un-waged poor, when food banks have crept into our communities in an unprecedented way; is it enough to rely on our health care system to fix it?
Health inequalities are increasing across Scotland and we see no reversal in this trend. In Glasgow alone there is 13 years difference in male life expectancy from the most wealthy compared to the least wealthy. We are an increasingly unequal society and there are no policies currently at UK level which will address this.
And in spite of assumptions, health inequalities are not inevitable; a more equal society has better health outcomes for all. But for more than a generation they have become our norm. An acceptance that Scotland’s gift to the world is deep fried mars bars, early death from poor lifestyles our norm, a self defeating normality fed by both media and our poor self concept. But it can be different.
A medal haul to be proud of in Glasgow’s Commonwealth games can begin that shift in self esteem. A confident nation, awake to its possibilities and ability to self determine is an important next step. The former CMO in Scotland, Sir Harry Burns expressed that an independent Scotland could also be a healthier one. I wholeheartedly agree. A nation self confident and self determining with a shift from learned helplessness and hopelessness which has literally seeped into our DNA ; to be one of energy, confidence, compassion and collaboration to create a better nation for all is also a nation to be proud of.
But let’s not rely only on the transfer of power from London to Edinburgh alone but remember too the message from the disability movement -nothing about us, without us -and ensure that applies at all levels in communities and for individuals. That’s how health and wellbeing flourishes in ourselves and in our communities.
Reasons to be cheerful.
Thank you to the super athletes in Glasgow for inspiring a nation and a generation not only to be active and fit but also to remind us that we can achieve great things with the right support and determination. Let’s use that knowledge wisely. Someone asked recently what the game changer would be in the referendum, I replied it would be confidence to believe we can be capable of more. I suspect that day has come and it’s now we will see our health and well-being improve as we realise our whole potential. I would urge you to listen to this version of Caledonia, by The Libations. The profit from every download will support food banks in Scotland. A worthy cause but even more importantly let’s work for a time when they aren’t needed, when wellbeing is the experience for all of us.
*** About Audrey Birt ***
“I have had early breast cancer twice in my life.I have shared my experience through my blog to help people understand the impact. I hope my blog can contribute to making a difference in all the areas my work and life touches on. My blog is evolving and I mean to explore the wider areas I am working on in healthcare and in developing heartful leadership. As always this will be from my own perspective with all the hats I wear, and hopefully it will make you think, smile, laugh even and perhaps sometimes shed a tear with me.”