"What is now proven was only once imagined" William Blake
Recently I have been blogging about my experience of the WEL course and having now completed it I feel strangely bereft it’s over, in some ways it's a lifelong course I know, but that time regularly to tune into ourselves, be challenged in our thinking and to learn new information and skills felt very precious. Inevitably some parts stand out for us all differently. I have already blogged about food ( my most read blog to date!).The statement you are not your thoughts and the focus on mindfulness has also resonated for me.
Perhaps most importantly as we travelled through the course my belief that the "fix it" model of health we currently embrace cannot survive has strengthened. We filled in a questionnaire at the beginning of the course and repeated in at the end. I realised I had moved from stated aims like I want to reduce my allergies and asthma, I want to get fitter to now saying I want to be at peace with myself and my wellbeing. Laying down a sense of guilt around having been ill, letting go of fighting ( how often we use war analogies with cancer) and instead accepting that we all get ill, we deal with difficulties in our lives and we need to focus on healing, recovery, repair -salutogenesis-not just fighting it with chemicals.
This has been reinforced when recently reading recent calls to find the cure for the war on dementia, hailing the prevention of breast cancer through drug treatment and an article from the BMJ around the issues with regard to big pharmaceutical companies and their impact on the treatment of diabetes. Our fix it model of health leads us to see the solutions in drugs often, evidence based research reinforces this whereas experience has taught me that usually what people want is more information, support and empowerment to regain their health and reduce their risk of disease. My work in healthcare and third sector in diabetes taught me that people never ask for help to reduce their blood sugar, they ask for support to manage work, relationships, holidays, school.
But it's so much harder to get funding for self-management programmes to support this than it is to get prescribed drugs even when other research tells us they are often not taken. The more drugs we prescribe, the less people take. Perhaps because at heart they too know they are not the whole answer and that they don't understand how they work and why they are important.
But let's not blame the pharmaceutical industry, tempting though that may be, they are only responding to the current market driven culture that acts as if profit and growth are the ideals to pursue beyond everything else, even when common sense tells us the ultimate impact of this makes no sense.
There will be no magic bullet cure for dementia nor for breast cancer, both are a complex system of diseases. And while we need to continue funding crucial research into the treatment, prevention or reduction in risk of these diseases
(much of this funded by vital charities) , we also as a society need to wake up to the many real issues for the people living with them. Those caring for loved ones with dementia are not usually lying awake at night calling out for a cure, they want the right support for all concerned that allows them all to live with dignity whilst protecting everyone's well-being.
These are the here and now challenges of living with long term conditions in all respects.
Developments in medicine have been amazing even within my lifetime and I admire and thank those pioneers of healthcare who have made this happen but it mustn't be the focus of all we do or invest in. The work we have campaigned for through the Alliance for many years now has highlighted this, the work on the WEL course illustrates the importance of this too, the development of mindfulness in our communities and many many other areas of peer based and community led work show the importance of salutogenesis not just at an individual or group level but really at a community and societal level. Practice based evidence needs to be valued alongside evidenced based practice too. I was delighted to see Don Berwick talk about his own journey to pursue this deeper understanding of the purpose of healthcare.
"I have two grandchildren. I want to hand them a planet that is really thriving"
The tide is turning..... because it has to. And that tide has to have kindness and connection in its essence, these are at the core of well-being.
I'm often described as a patient advocate and I always react to that description. I'm not a patient, I'm a person who advocates for others to be seen as that first, not merely a collection of symptoms. But that's not only what my reaction is about I know, it's because my interest goes well beyond the need to improve health and social care to looking at how we can promote and enable salutogenesis in our services and communities. No small challenge but if we don't collectively see the need for that we will not tackle the huge issues we face in our societies.
Reasons to be hopeful?
I was inspired to read this quote from Pope Francis on the need to tackle inequlaities. It's good to see so many with influence saying similar things, my plea as this year closes is please, please let's make sure we listen and play our own, however small part in being part of a healthier, kinder, more equal and compassionate society. Thanks for following my blog and I look forward to journeying with you again I hope in 2014.