Last month I heard a really encouraging article on the Radio about how the NHS is planning to shift to a more preventative system. The idea is that its focus moves from being a national Hospital service to a national Health service. See the article.
I, like many, am hugely grateful and admiring of the care and treatment we, in the UK, get, free at the point of delivery, from our GPs, health-centres and hospitals, but I am sure that a change is necessary. As ever, it is a change in thinking and a "paradigm shift" that is required.
What kind of changes are planned. Well here's a selection:
1. Halve childhood obesity by 2030.
Personally, I think that anything that can be done to encourage children to be active and to eat healthily is good news. Lots of sugary food is an industrialised abuse of our little ones and needs to be curbed. ( I am being probably simplistic and even sentimental and I have, on the other hand, long been interested in Karen Throsby's fascinating work into obesity, sugar and fat shaming which she sees often as a class issue and is very eloquent on the subject. (She is also a channel swimmer and so has my admiration!)) I have no sophisticated idea or really any idea on this except that from the point at which food became an industry and capital became its driver instead of sustenance, then we all became potential victims of the obesity epidemic and as a parent it has been an almost daily battle to instil healthy eating patterns in the face of sugar and other junk-lords advertising their wares so insidiously in so many corners of our children's lives. I am in support of government interfering in this! I am not sure of Dr Throsby's stand but, as I say, she is well worth following.
2. Reduce loneliness by making "social prescribing" - when doctors or nurses prescribe community activities -Again, I am not sure how this is going to pan out and there is danger lurking when those in the "know" prescribe to those who are "not" HOW to behave. Culture is often organic and to sculpt or engineer it is fraught path. There have been, of course, wonderful individuals and groups and organisations; even governments probably, who have orchestrated communal healthy activities and it probably can work. (Government does not always see healthy living as a priority or vote winner. Selling off playing-fields, by Thatcher's tory government, in the 80s was not good for our collective health, I suspect).
I was at my mother's Christmas concert this Saturday (for the Ware Choral Society-for whom she has been singing, off and on, since the mid sixties!!) and it was a lovely community event. Admittedly it was a pretty "grey" event with most of the singers and audience well over the half-way mark, but it was a real expression of people taking a risk with their body and voice in public. I am sure that if doctors had leaflets for choirs and other group activities in the waiting room and even as a possible suggestion, then people would be likely to raise their quality of life. Think about it; join a choir!
In the knotty area of asking, suggesting, promoting healthy activities, I can recall my total wonderment at the Chinese habit of dancing in the parks. On many occasions when I was there on a teaching gig in 2013, I was totally delighted by the unambiguous simple joy that all sorts of people took in dancing with eachother in the parks. No competition. Not even a flirty aspect-just dancing; in the open air. I never quite knew the ins and outs of it and I am not sure how it happened but my experience of it was perhaps the healthiest thing I have ever seen!
3. More widespread diagnosing 75% of cancers at stages one and two by 2028
It goes without saying, as far as I can tell, that this is a good thing. I have nothing really to say about it,
except that the cancer cell is a mighty adversary and should be taken very seriously by all of us. Are the ways we live nowadays conducive to more cancer? I would imagine so. Whatever we can do to feed it less (and refined sugar is a key food) is going to help us be more healthy. Here's some obvious but maybe elusive advice on habits to help avoid the big C.
4. Use technology to predict patients' illnesses and target advice at sections of the population. This is a whole can of worms which I don't feel qualified in any way to open! I can't help feeling a bit "big brother" or Brave New World here but I know that the pull of both knowledge and medico-scientific gadgetry will be too great resist and this will be widespread and I hope beneficial.
The reason I am particularly interested in this is because as a Feldenkrais practitioner I somehow have found myself professionally engaged with people's health. People now write to me with all sorts of issues that I might or might not have an idea about, Dupuytrans anyone, or Charcot syndrome? (They were just both from one client yesterday.) Can I help their disabled child? Can I help with Parkinson's? The answer is in a lot of cases, yes (although there is nothing I can do about the pathology let's say of Charcot, or obviously the pathology of anything, doctors are best!). I am not a doctor, clearly, but I can help people live their life more fully and I can often help people out of pain and confusion but I am not writing about that here. ( How I do this will be the subject of many blogs) What I am writing about is how Feldenkrais Method has helped me to see how healthy living is a complex and somewhat elusive art. It's not about regimes and exercise, necessarily (although they can be beneficial), it is primarily about how you see yourself.
Feldenkrais talks of a person's self-image and how this is malleable. This was news to me when I started studying, and the whole business of dynamic and static learning has revolutionised how I think about how I live my life. I am no paragon of health but I have much better ideas than I used to about how to recognise that my mind is as important in my ongoing health as my body, and I hope and assume that the NHS is wise to that-there are many good signs that it is, but it is still going to take a 'paradigm shift' in thinking about the self and health before we can collectively get out of the boom and bust health pattern that advanced western countries particularly have got themselves into.