Sustainability. This has become a buzzword denoting a more or less ideal
state to strive for in all aspects of our lives including the systems
we look to for the restoration and/or preservation of health.
Sustainability. This has become a buzzword denoting a more or less ideal state to strive for in all aspects of our lives including the systems we look to for the restoration and/or preservation of health. We often state that our current systems are not sustainable, but we seem to seek Holy Grails meant to ring in a new constancy of lifestyle and practices resembling a “happily ever after” scenario.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sustainable, as “using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” This definition, and the mindset it supports, implies that as long as the resource is present, there will be no need to change our use of it, or any act related to its use. In this light, adopting a course to ensure sustainability in fact suggests eventual stagnation, as individuals and as a human family, not just in our activities but also in the values and ideals those activities reflect. Stagnation can result in the failure of systems – and the detrimental effects of this – even if the resources to keep a particular activity going are still present.
In contrast, sociologist Blake D. Ratner describes sustainability as a “dialogue of values” that when “not construed as a fixed end . . . is meaningful, not because it provides an encompassing solution . . . but rather because it brings . . . differences into a common field of dispute, dialogue, and potential agreement as the basis for ongoing collective action.” This definition implies a continuity of new avenues for growth and development in our societies, and a fluidity that is mindful of emerging knowledge and evolving needs. There is the acknowledgment of a “basis” rather than an immovable plan, a concept that provides a dynamic space, thus keeping crisis at bay. (Incidentally, and not without importance, this may also serve to prevent draining of resources.)
It is easy to see how this applies to our health-care system that is struggling to survive by force-feeding its current reliance on a limited, but familiar, paradigm. We proclaim it must be reformed to become sustainable, by which we really mean we must fertilize a field of dreams that we never intend to leave. But, I think by adopting this approach, we are, in fact, praying to the gods of reductionism and missing out on many opportunities.
Ratner’s “dialogue of values” sustainability paradigm could potentially help us out, here. For starters, if current conventional health-care practices were knitted with the growing knowledge base of “alternative” therapies, with the goal of ongoing, collective and patient-centred action, might this not lead to a less easily saturated system of options for those who seek healing and/or wellness? Next, what of therapeutic groups and/or individual practitioners? Doesn’t a single approach, applied without deviation, herald stagnation and crisis, or are thoughtful fluidity and dialogue based on the individuality of each presentation the hallmarks of longevity and universal benefit? These are but two considerations.
Yes, where economic structures and market share issues are involved, Ratner’s formula may prove tricky. But, if we examine current challenges in health care – and even within each health profession – we may find that, in the name of continuity planning and global well being – we ave little choice but to consider a dialogue of values aimed at collective and ongoing action.
Bien à vous,
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