Transforming Health: Shifting our health systems from illness treatment and prevention to health creation

Published: July 2017 Publication Type: Publication

Authors: Alan Chen, Tony May

In spite of recent overall advancements in our society’s health and wellbeing, we are experiencing a crisis of major health disparities driven by growing inequalities. Experts recognize that while the NHS has much to be celebrated, its design is not well suited to addressing these complex issues. The medical model defines health pathogenically, by referencing illness as the starting point and health as the goal. The Young Foundation is calling for a fundamental change in the way we understand health by changing our focus to systems that create health instead of just mitigating illness. We call this new approach to health innovation “Health Creation”.

Health creation isn’t about “doing health to people”, nor is it about telling them what to do in order to be healthy and prevent disease. It’s about empowerment and fostering community agency.  Health creation is about walking alongside people with humility and at their pace to discover the realities of their lives in relation to their health. Using a health creation approach means working with them to generate new ideas that they will drive to create better health. It’s radical because it isn’t easy or straightforward, but it’s important and necessary.  We believe that with the right support and facilitation, the answers to our health crisis lie with communities themselves.

There are many examples of health creation approaches on our doorsteps but they are too few and far between, and exist on a funding knife edge. One example is Libby’s Community Cafe, Connah’s Quay, Wales, a venture we supported on our Amplify Cymru project through its innovation support programme. Libby’s is a community cafe that seeks to offer a programme of fun and engaging activities, as well as providing a communal space for people with dementia, and those who support them, to get information/advice and connect with others with similar issues.

“Transforming Health” was created by The Young Foundation with BeyondMe (a charity connecting young professionals with causes) who connected us with Deloitte to develop this document. It explores what needs to be done to reduce health inequalities, by fostering individual and community agency to create good health that changes our collective wellbeing for the better.

Please contact tony.may@youngfoundation.org for more information or if you would like to join with us to tackle health inequalities and create health across the UK.

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