I could tell my story as a sort of Janus-headed narrative.
I like this god of beginnings, gates, transitions, duality and endings, with his two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. But maybe also to all the kind of opposites and contrasts our society is so rich of.
I am a doctor: I studied in Rome, where I observed the changement in a health system under my eyes. From a national health system capable of paying you even thermal therapy to one where if you need to see a specialist for a serious disease you can wait for months …or just book an appointment for the next day if you can pay the private-practice fee.
I moved to Brussels for specialising in Pediatrics -(access to specialised training in different countries could be another interesting topic, but too many things to say for resuming everything in one post!)- and had the chance to work in different multicultural contexts: Brussels city-center, Antwerp travel clinic, Burundi’s rural hospital.
What really caught my attention was how children health was related to some very specific cultural-related aspects. There are of course the well-known social determinants of health, but that’s not all, or at least the way we deal with them as health worker is trivial.
Am I doing my job as a Pediatrician if I am not doing something for empowering mothers, for helping them in creating social networks, in having access to instruction, to healthy nutrition, safe shelter, gender equality?
I strongly believe Health is a social result and my job as a doctor will never be accomplished if I do not go out from hospitals, clinics, cabinets, if I do not act firstly as a citizen.
Then let’s have a look to the other face. I am a patient too, as anyone is at a certain moment in life -hopefully just a transient moment!-.
I was confronted to the weaknesses of Occidental medicine: when I see a specialist that only looks to my blood results and never to my eyes do I feel heal? He will probably solve my medical problem, but where is caring? Is that enough? Aren’t we loosing something with this dichotomy? Sometimes, in spite of a very scientific vision of life, I prefer to look for alternative medicines as a patient, exactly because of this need for an holistic vision.
I often think to the ancient hawaiian healing practice of Hoʻoponopono. The definition in the Hawaiian Dictionary is: “To put to rights; to put in order or shape, correct, revise, adjust, amend, (…); to make ready, as canoemen preparing to catch a wave.” Illness is considered as a problem of the whole family (or even society), and the solution is then thought as a social practice too.
What could we learn from that?
From a very practical point of view I am sure that a lot can be done, and thinking about how to create and empower social networks is one of the keys for improving health.
I think loneliness is one of the stronger social determinant of health in more and more industrialised societies: no solution can be thought without a systemic and partecipative vision. From what to start?