No. 592, August 11, 2008

To "learn and grow" improves public health

The public health in a country has great impact on quality of life, business and economics. At the 9th Nordic Public Health Conference this spring the message was clear: Public health has entered the knowledge society – personal growth is a crucial factor for public health.

The Swedish National Institute for Public Health hosted the conference. Many speakers touched on the relationship between public health and to "learn & grow"

A big theme at the conference was the influence of social factors on public health. An example: The most affluent neighbourhoods in the British city of Glasgow has a life expectancy of 82 years. The life expectancy in China is 69 years. But the poorest neighbourhoods in Glasgow has an even lower life expectancy of only 63 years. Other examples: Costa Rica and Russia have comparable national incomes, but Costa Rica has a much higher life expectancy, nearly as high as Japan and healthiest countries in Western Europe.

Lowest life expectancy is found in countries lacking the basic necessities of life such as clean water, food, adequate sanitary conditions and basic medical care.

Poor people in the West have these necessities and still their life expectancy is low. Why? Because in the West we also need money to be able to take part in a healthy social life: Proper clothes, decent housing in safe neighbourhoods, home electronics, travel, social events, vacations etc – all of which costs money in the Western world.

The British researcher Sir Michael Marmot spoke about what is conducive to public health in wealthy countries:

What is the message to your country?

The message for Sweden is that it does well with equality, a high living standard and low poverty. But high levels of sick leave and a deteriorating psychological health shows that there is more to do in giving citizens a higher level of control over their life situation – more equal opportunities to learn and grow.

Creative regards! Jonas Himmelstrand

© 2008 Strategies to Learn & Grow Newsletter • www.stratletter.com