Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Turku - Finland

In the old Finnish capital of Turku, remnants of its former glory are tucked amongst many less elegant structures from the latter half of the last century. There are big cobblestone squares and buildings that have stood for so long they slouch. But there are also big soulless concrete blocks lining the city’s centre; functional, living spaces, businesses etc. But I saw very little of it really, beyond the well worn path from my hotel to the conference centre and the never-dark view from my window. And Turku needs time I think.

I was there for the International Health Promoting Hospitals Conference where a surprising number of doctors and senior hospital administrators, as well as a handful of academics and health promotion practitioners have gathered to nut out the role of the hospitals in promoting health as well as treating illness. The theme of the conference was salutogenesis – which, as I understand it, is a shift of focus from the risks of ill health to the resources for health. So rather than research what makes people take up smoking, consider what it is about the people who never take it up, or drives people to give it up. That’s it in a nutshell. Indeed it is rather similar to the way that Christina Zarcadoolis talks about health literacy. Let’s not focus on what is wrong with people – let’s find what is right about them and build our efforts to communicate around that.

At this conference, I was struck by how many of the health professionals, particularly the clinicians, had developed their interest in health promotion. It really was like a bolt from the blue, like they had suddenly started listening to their patients and realised that there was something wrong with the way that healthcare was being delivered. The classic “aha” moment, where the pieces all fall into place .

Some quotes . . .

“what is the point of treating these people over and over again without addressing the issues that are making them sick in the first place.”

“Health is no longer a thing of its own. It is connected and takes a part in shaping society”.

“The health care system has made massive gains in keeping people alive but not increasing healthy life years”.

It all makes sense – now for the mechanisms.

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