How do you create health? Simple question
January 26, 2012
I was told a story recently about a schoolchild from a troubled background. Getting to school was an achievement. This day, classes required special pencils. The child had none. He couldn’t do the classes. The social worker and health visitor got involved. They ask if the child can stay at school, it being better than home. These decisions cost. The simple answer was to give the child a pencil to do what he wanted to do.
I wondered what this child would draw. In a Jackson Pollock painting, each splash on the wall is a mark of anger organised. The thing about drawing is that every mark matters. They are a product of your decision-making. You are the only person that can decide what to show, how deep, and how little. The beauty of owning these decisions is that you shape the space to do what you feel you want to do. The child could have drawn beautiful marks that make you weep.
Two documents were recently published on health in Scotland. The first is the annual report of the chief medical officer. The second is the publication of a mixed economy research entitled Good Places Better Health. In the annual report, Dr. Harry Burns suggests that often the definition of health is based on a deficits model: fixing problems. Burns argues that this is not enough. He suggests that ‘a relevant environmental health agenda for the 21st century is as much about the creation of places which engender good physical and mental health, as it is about protection from hazards’. To really fix the problem, start thinking about the conditions necessary for that problem not to exist. Think ‘create health’.