Gross National Happiness & Health Promotion

On July 7, 2010, in Health Promotion, by Nicole Lantz

This is a health promotion application of Gross National Happiness inspired by the voices of Ray Anderson, John Ralston Saul, and Mathis Wackernagel. Since it’s from the 2005 international conference “Rethinking Development: Local Pathways to Global Wellbeing”, it’s been a while since I wrote it. Sometimes “in with the new” doesn’t have to mean “out with the old”…

There is a growing community of people who are questioning the measures of success that are embedded into our culture and affect the daily choices of individuals, community organizations, businesses, non-profits and government. Standard measures of success tell individuals and groups how far along a line they are in terms of affluence, growth, and productivity, but trivialize time affluence, well-being and happiness. Many believe it is time to replace Gross National Product with Gross National Happiness as an indicator of success.

Creating Healthy Communities through Discourse

Everyone knows that the measure of an individual’s health should be far beyond the currency we use today, yet we continue to focus on disease management and risk lowering. What is needed is a new language in the dominant discourse regarding health and happiness. Health promotion must give people the words they can use each day at the kitchen table, in a meeting, on the phone, in an e-mail, at break, watching the game, outside the mall, in line at the grocery store, with their children, with their parents, with their clients, with their friends. That is where people talk about health and make choices about health. That is where cultural change is made.
Health should elicit words like balance, well-being, spirit, family, environment, community, happiness, relationships, caring, ecology, connection, reciprocity, trust, and voice.
Health promotion organizations can engage individuals to create a new definition of health and happiness that will change expectations, create ownership, and promote change on an individual level and thus a community level.

Measuring the Success of Health Promotion Organizations

Health organizations should be leaders in embracing a triple bottom line and should report financial, environmental and social outcomes. Why environmental outcomes? Health organizations must be environmentally sustainable – it is simply common sense. How can anyone promote health without recognizing the source of healthy food, healthy water, healthy air, and healthy land? Even without any consideration of health as more than just the absence of disease, it IS part of the mandate because healthy living is simply is not sustainable without a healthy environment. How can we continue to act as if the living earth, the biosphere, is limitless and will provide healthy resources to us and to our children?

Health Promotion = Happiness Promotion
The promotion of health depends on the promotion of happiness. We must reflect seriously on how we define and measure health and happiness before we can form any kind of plan to promote them.

2 Responses to “Gross National Happiness & Health Promotion”

  1. Charmaine Sacayanan says:

    I really enjoyed your website. Awesome content. Please keep posting such good content.

  2. Mathew Welsh says:

    Triple Bottom Line is a great concept. I wonder if it would take legislation and whole new breed of social and environmental accountants to make it relevant and a reality that could be measured?

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