Sunday, 6 April 2008

Surtout la santé

Athe beginning of each new year people offer one another best wishes for the year ahead and many in France will often say "et surtout la santé" - which means "and good health above all else". One of my parishioners would regularly say this to me and I have to admit it used to irritate me more than rather. (I think my ungraciousness may have had something to do with her having chopped down my carefully planted gooseberry bushes, but I digress.)
Tomorrow is World Health Day marking the founding of the World Health Organization and an invitation to reflect on global health issues.
But as well as being a subject for national and international policies, global campaigns and constant raising of awareness, health is also very much about individuals and communities. Health is personal and like much of what is personal, it's also highly political.
A friend who has spent part of recent months trying to work through some of the physical and psychological issues around her surgery gave me The Wounded Storyteller by Arthur Frank. I'm enjoying beginnning to read it and will also look at some of Frank's other work.
It's good for me to reflect on what illness may mean for me personally, and also on how I tell my story and help encourage others to tell their story. It is easier to overcome pain and chronic illness when you know that you can get the care you need if there is a crisis.
One of the global aspects to health issues is that so many stories remain untold. With health the focus in the media is often on fabulous new drugs and technology rather than on community empowerment and appropriate technology. The push to privatise and commercialise health means that many people in developing countries aren't always able to become wounded storytellers, and thus subjects of their own health rather than objects of someone else's health programme.
So World Health Day for me will be an opportunity to give thanks for the great drugs and care I receive and for the opportunity to become a wounded storyteller in my own right. I am a very privileged person.