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Commons of Health and Well-being

on Thu, 11/17/2011 - 21:07

“The social and political space where things get done and where people have a sense of belonging and have an element of control over their lives, providing sustenance, security and independence... Commons are organized around resources that are collectively owned or shared between or among populations. These resources are said to be held in common and can include everything from natural resources to domains of the cultural sphere…”

How can we start envisioning a commons-based health care system? 
(Can such an action-oriented inquiry also help us envisioning the future of any social system in a commons-based society?)Answering those questions, we are not to build utopias but observe the existing paths of transition to a new system based on a logic different from the one of the private sector (profit) or the state (control). The logic of the commons is all for the Whole, the Whole for all.

The question of how a healthcare system--or any social systems, for that matter--would look like in a commons-based society, can be approached in an inductive way (starting with observation of the emerging social practices) and deductive way (starting with first principles of the commons). Here, we will use only the first approach. The second may be the subject of a separate note and conversation.

So, how is the future already here even if not evenly distributed? How can we recognise commons in our personal life and how can we strengthen them in any form in which they exist already? Pioneering, commons-like examples in health care are:

Living Medicine  facilitates skill sharing of foods and herbs for health to build a self care model which includes and transcends cultural traditions and links them to evidence based medicine. Workshops are held in parks and green spaces and enable participants to experience of how we are an integral part of nature, how by being in touch with the natural processes we observe around us we can learn about ourselves.

Another example is the Intelligent Waiting room project which is part of SustainCare. It uses the space and time when people wait to see their doctors in a creative way by engaging patients in activities and also linking them to local supportive networks. Healthy food demonstrations, exercise programmes and the opportunity to talk to a health facilitator are some of the activities which encourage patients to take a more active role in their own recovery or in preventative healthcare.

Patient social networks are another  example where patients exchange their experiences with treatments (conventional, natural, holistic) for particular illnesses or symptoms. Ongoing clinical studies show new value for patient social networks. See search health where clinical studies show new value for patient social networks.

These are just some of the current social practices of health care, which point beyond the status quo, towards the future system, and are worth amplifying and connecting with each other in order to empower and let them scale them up.

These examples represent a tiny, random sample from a vast ocean of projects, initiatives and movements that have already engaged the hearts and minds of millions around the world. What else is already moving and what can we observe in the domain of health care? What other projects and initiatives do you know of, which:

• Empower people to influence the conditions affecting their health,
• Put the collective intelligence of the whole in the service of people’s well-being
• Help people grow a more intimate relationship with nature, and its healing forces

What would be some of the other desired characteristics of a future “commons of health and well-being”? What do you see that needs to be included, which would inspire you?  We invite you to work with us on a collaboratively vetted and prioritized list of those characteristics and sense together into the next steps on our learning journey towards a commons of health and well being. (The "we" in the "we invite you" is Anna Betz in collaboration with George Pór, members of the School of Commoning). Improvedhealth care education and delivery will mean improved awareness and wellbeing for everyone and less expense.

Here are some questions worth seeing into:

What can we do to make the existing projects stronger?

What can we do to facilitate connections and collaboration between them?

In order to grow and evolve, the commons will need financial resources. Given what the commons initiatives do for public health, the government must support them more generously. What would it take to create a partnership between the public and commons sectors?

If you want to help us finding answers please contact, Anna Betz at:  modernherbalmedicine (at) gmail (dot) com

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