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The Prince of Wales calls for a broader definition of health

HRH The Prince of Wales has called for society to embrace a broader and more complex concept of health. Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, The Prince describes a vision of health that includes the physical and social environment, education, agriculture and architecture. Emphasising that his point is not to confront accepted medical wisdom, HRH suggests reasons for encouraging a wider perspective on health.

Rather than simply treating the symptoms of disease, The Prince advocates a health service that puts patients at the heart of the process by incorporating the core human elements of mind, body and spirit. Explaining that symptoms may often be a metaphor for underlying disease and unhappiness, he calls for a scientific and therapeutic approach that understands, values and uses patient perspective and belief rather than seeking to exclude them.

Reflecting on the need to restore urgently a climate of care and compassion at the heart of our health services, The Prince describes how health professionals need to be equipped with the skills and desire to listen and honour what is being said – and not said – by patients. In developing a healing empathy HRH believes that patients will be helped to find their own particular path towards better health.

Turning to the need to tackle deep-seated problems in alienated and uncaring communities, The Prince describes the work of several of his charities in Burnley, where health inequalities have lowered life expectancy to among the worst levels in the country. Improvements to health, the built and natural environment, the arts, education and business will, he believes, lead to improvements not only in health and other inequalities, but also in the overall cost-efficiency and effectiveness of local services.

The Prince concludes by urging clinicians to emphasise the value of caring, continuing relationships and for society to adopt a more holistic approach to health and disease that maximises the potential of the physical and social environment so that healing and better health can thrive.

Dr Kamran Abbasi, Editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, said: “The Prince of Wales is a prominent and influential voice. When he sets out his vision for health, something he clearly thinks deeply about, speaking directly to medical professionals is the best way of allowing a constructive debate to flourish. This is an important article and The Prince’s vision for health is engaging.”

Image: Shutterstock

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