From ongoing debates about public versus private health care, the validity of homeopathic and traditional remedies and ethics of medical research to the steady stream of advertisements for health foods, fitness-tracking smart watches and exercise equipment, issues related to health and well-being are a constant fixture in everyday life. But just what practices and values are encompassed by the concepts of health and well-being? What does it mean to be in good health, or live a healthy lifestyle? What are the factors that undermine health and well-being and what can be done as individuals, as a society, and as a global community to address those issues?
The ease with which human beings engage with their communities and the environment largely determines their attitudes to health, status, and quality of life. Environmental conditions are often cited as providing the essential ingredients of health and at its most basic level the presence of clean water and air, food, safe shelter, and access to serviceable networks of communications are fundamental to health and well-being. However, the health of individuals and nations, and the planet itself, is powerfully determined by both predictable and unpredictable environmental, biomedical and lifestyle change. Globally, how and where people live: their background, relationships and support networks; social conditions and environment; economic status and lifestyle; education and literacy; health practices and genetics; gender, culture, and spirituality are all factors that contribute to health. Sadly, social inequalities and human negligence, or the critical failure of infrastructure and resources in times of environmental crises, wars and civil unrest, persecution, mass migration and famine tax the human spirit and must question the meaning of ‘health’ at a very fundamental level.
A combination of demographic and life-style factors have created greater demand for health-care services and a danger of saturation, fragmentation and under-funding. Confronted with these challenges the health industry is forced to come to terms with the contradictory notion that as people grow more aware and concerned with health-related matters and live longer and healthier lives, at the same time the burden of chronic disease and end of life health issues also increases. The health profile of today’s communities indicates that it may no longer be enough just to support the advancement and application of health science or provide interventions that support education, prevention, and responsible lifestyle choices.
Ultimately, how we understand, conceive, and express the multiple meanings of ‘health’ goes hand-in-hand with the greater awareness that a healthy society is one in which health is both a right and a responsibility. It is expected that this project will unlock some of the more conventional notions of health as simple measurements of privilege or status, of difference or deficit, by freely examining and celebrating ‘health’ as a positive resource for people wherever they might be and whatever they may aspire to be in our global community.
Health is, therefore, a profoundly inter-disciplinary concept whose implications stretch across every aspect of public and private life. Explorations of the topic demand an inter-disciplinary approach that draws upon the personal and professional experiences of people from all walks of life. The Health Project provides a space for participants to share and re-examine what they already know about health and merge those understandings with new insights to refine current approaches and promote innovation. All project activities are informed and inspired by inter-disciplinary principles of equality, on-going participation, a commitment to shared and transformative learning experiences and the creation of new pathways and relationships that benefit societies and lead to inclusive global understanding. Indeed, it is a core principle of the project that the larger community should benefit from the project’s outcomes as participants incorporate new understandings and approaches into their professional practices, activism and other means of engagement aimed at enhancing health and well-being at home and globally.
It is intended that the Health Project will find a very broad audience and capture a wide variety of responses. This is entirely intentional. It is hoped that the enthusiasm and passion that participants will bring through their critically rich presentations and discussions will strongly influence the future shape, direction, and development of the project over its lifetime. Consequently, it is anticipated that the issues the project might explore will include, but will not be limited to, the following:
· Understanding health as complete physical, mental and social well-being
· Characteristics of ‘healthy’ persons and communities;
· The changing meaning of ‘health’ – metaphors and symbols;
· Perceptions of health in the presence of disease and infirmity;
· Preoccupations with life balance and health;
· Perceptions of ‘impairment’ and disability;
· Health as a life goal;
· The notion of being ‘cured’;
· Connectedness: health as an eco-system;
· Health and identity;
· Genetics and health;
· The meaning and pursuit of healthy living;
· Health and trauma;
· Health service provisions and the client;
· The health professional;
· Health and the law;
· Experiences of health;
· Pain in the context of health;
· Models of health;
· Health and the body;
· Gendered perceptions of health;
· The relationship between creative work and health;
· Health and myth;
· The expression of health through narrative medicine;
· Health and social media;
· Health and responsibility;
· Health rights;
· The politics of/around health
· Health and economics;
· Health and issues of equity
· Ethical health matters.
Who Should Get Involved?
Interest in ‘health’, its impact and meaning on our lives, its provision and industries, continues to burgeon. Health Project is an inclusive interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary research and publishing project which seeks perspectives from those engaged in any field of study or activity related to health. It welcomes the participation of service users and those that provide government, non-government, and alternative health services to individuals, groups or large and small communities of clients. We also invite individuals and groups who engage with these, services such as professional health workers, carers, therapists, and doctors, those who influence the way that we regard health at a national and international level such as educators and academics, policy makers, politicians, and those involved artistically and economically in social and digital medias. We would also be pleased to receive presentations from the broader health industry and those allied economic systems that create goods with the intention of improving health and well-being. Finally, we respectfully encourage the users of ‘health’ – those who have stories to share, roles to model, and even axes to grind – writers, artists, performers and designers, the transformed survivor, natural philosopher and guru, in fashion, food, sport, recreation, lifestyle, and entertainment.
We invite all who are interested in sharing their knowledge of ‘health’, exploring its meaning, examining its expression and language, and pondering its importance to present and future cultures and societies to join us in this growing project.
The project’s activities will include publications, seminars, workshops, policy papers and other resources that address the impact of health, its presence and its absence, and how human beings regard and engage with it is complex and multi-layered. Our work will endeavour to clarify current understandings of issues around health and well-being, generate new ways of looking at ‘health’, forward our thinking and inform future policies, practice and caring. Particular attention will be paid to concrete application of the knowledge generated by the project through the development of policy papers, best practice protocols and resources designed to assist professionals working in health-related fields.
The Health Project is a growing interdisciplinary portfolio of research events, programmes, workshops, seminars, conferences, symposia, courses, on-line courses and a range of related activities. The following research streams, by no means exhaustive, are chosen to represent a broad range of possible areas of exploration in the future:
· Alternative medicine;
· Changing perceptions and preoccupations with ‘health’ in human history;
· Health, human rights, and social justice;
· Healthy lifestyles and responsible living;
· Narratives of health and well-being in the wake of difficult life events;
· Sustainable approaches that put the client at the centre of client care;
· The impact of humour upon health and well-being, and;
· The placebo effect and health.
Research Programmes, Events and Activities
If you have an idea for an event or research stream, a collaboration that engages with communities, a conference, workshop, seminar, forum or any related activities, please do not hesitate to get in touch and share your ideas. Project events and activities will appear here as they launch or become available on-line.
Please feel encouraged to use this project as an opportunity to take an active role and join our international, inter-disciplinary community. Tell us what you think you can do, however small, to support us in the project and make our collective contribution more purposeful. We truly welcome your perspectives, passion, and energy.