The Benefits of a Healthy Society
Healthier societies have powerful benefits for individuals, communities, and the world economy. These include a greater ability to work, to learn, and to contribute.
Different approaches to healthy societies have shaped efforts to achieve them. These include comprehensive PHC, BV, SM, the Gandhian paradigm, resource nationalism and ubuntu. Each has unique features but also common drivers that are rooted in social movements and forums.
The health of a society is measured by the ability of its people to live productive lives. This requires access to food, shelter, education and physical and mental health services.
Historically, society has looked to the health sector to deal with its concerns about disease and poor health outcomes. But as the global burden of disease shifts from infectious to non-communicable diseases – many driven by drivers beyond the health sector – a pragmatic concept of healthy societies becomes increasingly important.
Healthy societies need to include a commitment to research and to share knowledge with other sectors and people. They also need to be willing to work together and to prioritize social justice. They understand that they are in an infinite game – not a zero-sum one – with other societies and the environment.
Well-being includes emotional and mental health and the capacity to develop healthy relationships; have a meaningful job with a sense of purpose; and live in a pleasant, clean environment. It also includes being able to manage one’s life and cope with stress.
A healthy society has good vaccination rates to protect against disease; provides access to affordable, quality healthcare and nutritious food; promotes active living through urban planning; and fosters human creativity and craftsmanship. It puts these societal values at the forefront of fundamental policy and strategizing steps.
These policies have the potential to make the biggest impact on a person’s wellbeing because they focus on changing conditions and environments rather than just treating disease. The way that ideas are framed and articulated has great influence on how they lead to action and change.
A healthy society is one where people care for their neighbours and don’t cause their downfall. People who don’t gossip or judge their neighbour’s lifestyle are part of a healthy society. They also know how to take precautions against natural disasters and understand that living in harmony with nature is vital.
Countries that prioritize safety as a core principle of their governance are more likely to succeed. They have moved beyond zero-sum approaches and recognise that they are engaged in an infinite game with the rest of humanity, other societies, and the environments that host them. In such a game, cooperation and collaboration is essential. They have embraced the concept that safety isn’t just about the protection of their citizens and territories, but of all life on this planet.
Having access to healthy environments has a direct impact on health and wellbeing. However, it is important that we consider how different groups define a healthy environment, as pre-existing definitions can exclude marginalised communities such as those living in deprived areas, people with disabilities, or those from ethnic minority groups.
Our research showed that participants viewed healthy environments as ones that were accessible and inclusive for all members of society, regardless of ability. Many also highlighted the importance of natural green and blue spaces within urban areas as part of a healthy environment. They viewed these as being a source of relaxation and a good opportunity to reduce stress levels, which have a direct impact on our health. In addition, they were a place to protect and sustain biodiversity for all species.
A healthy society is a place where happiness is valued and people are happy to work hard for their own and for the benefit of the community. It is also a place where children are able to develop academically and socially, and adults can enjoy their lives.
Happier societies are more productive, and this is because people are able to focus on their work without worrying about their personal or family issues. They are also more able to enjoy their leisure time because they have access to all the resources they need.
In addition, happy societies have lower rates of hypertension and higher life expectancy. They are also more resilient to disasters. The United Nations has even started to measure global happiness and the Bhutan Kingdom is now promoting Gross National Happiness.