The Art of Complexity and Public Health

In public health we use focus groups — which were initially designed to focus a research question, not serve as a means of research unto itself — to generalize from a group-think scenario to an entire community and then claim that we know them. Really? Is this beholding? Is this the kind of contemplative inquiry that makes sense for public health. Could we learn more from artists? Our methods certainly could (see art of public health), but perhaps the way of the artist is also something we could learn more from

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Design for Social Norms or Social Change?

Just as we create path dependencies for one set of values, so too can we do the same for others and with other people. The focus on the outcomes of systems rather than their design is problematic if we want change. Starting with design and values at the outset, being conscious of who we invite in and how we engage them and by remaining contemplative about how these systems unfold and the emergent patterns that shape them, designers of all stripes may be better positioned to create social change rather than just for social norms.

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The Design of Health

The social challenges from chronic disease, environmental threats, social migration, aging populations, economic disparities, and a more globalized, multicultural world require strategies that bring the best ideas to the table, strategies to realize them, and values that make these actions more equitable for everyone. Health promotion + design is one way to achieve this.

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What the Slutwalk, Marshall McLuhan and Rebecca Black Have in Common

Poverty, racism, access to health services, mental health and wellness, and education are all issues that are complex. They cannot or will not allow themselves to be understood in simple terms, yet are issues that speak to the wellbeing of society. Slutwalk was about rights and freedoms for more than one half of our population. It was about respecting people for who they are, honouring their sexuality, and educating everyone about the prevalence, consequences and risks associated with unwanted sexual advancement and assault. When it becomes a Rebecca Black Friday issue, it is about things like the salacious use of risque’ language and when it is a McLuhan issue, it takes a library to understand it.

Surely with our amazing tools we can find some middle ground to make the complex accessible, and the simple more sophisticated.

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Building Empathy and Other Odd Concepts

Empathy and compassion involve using your heart. Critical inquiry about empathy means using your brain to see the concept more clearly in terms of its purpose. Having the courage to put these into practice in a professional realm and the optimistic hope that we can do this to make things better for everyone is not just a fantasy, but a possibility. In doing so, we can make these real, important concepts more meaningful in a real sense, not in some marketing, feel-good speak that we have now. By being much more authentic, we’ll also help build the credibility of these methods and ideas beyond design and beyond health.

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Design for Sex, Gender and Health (Celebrating International Women’s Day)

Bringing design and health promotion closer together has the potential to do women and everyone better by considering the locations — social and physical — in which sex influences health and wellbeing and consciously designing situations that improve it. As we celebrate this International Women’s Day, it is worth considering ways to make sex and gender more conscious in our work and how we might design for both at a foundational level.

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