A Systems perspective on health and wellbeing

The other evening, I went out with a colleague and friend of mine – T. Well I say colleague, we used to work for the same organisation – now we work for different organisations but within the same partnership arena.  When we worked together, we routinely had a friday night drink during which we discussed society, organisations, management and so on – at the time he had just finished a social policy PhD and I was embarking on my MBA.

It’s been a while since we have seen each other outside formal meetings.  In our conversation the other evening, we started talking about complexity.  T has an emerging interest in the complexity of individual’s lives and the tension created when organisation’s have to be accountable for the ‘outcomes’ they achieve through their interventions.  Entire voluntary sector funding regimes are founded on organisations making claims for the outcomes they can create.

Contemporary public health research has an underpinning systems perspective.  The most reproduced model is that by Dahlgren and Whitehead which shows a series of influences on the health and wellbeing of an individual.  In Newcastle upon Tyne, I have been involved in work to raise awareness of this ‘holistic perspective’, most notably with our Mythbuster brochure.

What my discussion with T made me realise, is that to date, I have not seen health theory expressed using the language of Systems (the academic/intellectual discipline).  So here is my first iteration…

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