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Friday, January 22, 2016

Healthy Society

It has become something of a tired cliché to talk about a National Disease Service. The idea that doctors don't do health but only disease is an easy hit, a sharp elbow in the side of a privileged profession. As anyone who has actually seen a doctor at work knows, it isn't true. Anyway, it would be foolish to think that the health of an individual should be left to doctors alone. And if personal health is beyond the reach of the doctor, a healthy society is certainly beyond the mandate of the medical profession. By “healthy society” I don't mean one in which we have extinguished the social determinants of health. A healthy society is much more than a community in which the causes of disease are minimised. It is one where, at the very least, human creativity is free to flourish, individuals have the liberty to be who they wish to be (without violating the liberties of others), and the spirit of life (all life and not merely human life) prospers. Can nations struggling with a multitude of imperfections turn themselves into healthy societies? The most important task of any government is to protect and strengthen its national security. But what if governments defined security in a broader way—as the health not only of its people but also its society. Last week, a seminar investigated the idea of a healthy society. The country where the seminar was held is irrelevant since the principles it sought to discover are universal. Prescriptions were varied. But their diversity accurately reflected the complex qualities that are likely needed to fully realise the idea of social health. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, we were once taught at school. One might also say that human destiny recapitulates social pathology./.../
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Ben Pruchnie/ Getty images

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