The future of health

Farrow Partnership’s design for a Health Promoting Lifestyle Centre in rural South Africa

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Where in the world are we most likely to find a radically progressive way to reduce the burden of disease? Will we find it in countries that endlessly debate minor changes to their sclerotic, unsustainable health care systems? Or should we instead look to South Africa for fresh thinking, a country which has every reason to make a giant leap to an entirely new “health-causing” model?

The term “salutogenic” may not be familiar to many, but it offers a powerful, optimistic way to think about massive problems – ranging from chronic illness to low productivity to violence – that plague societies everywhere.

Salutogenic is the opposite of pathogenic, a term widely recognized and defined as “disease causing.”

The fact that many people understand the term “pathogenic” but few have even heard of “salutogenic” speaks volumes about where we find ourselves today as a society.

“We have 8,000 known causes of disease, and maybe only 80 known causes of health,” observes Dr. Alan Dilani who is director of the International Academy for Design and Health, based in Stockholm.

The government of South Africa recognizes the value of building facilities that rigorously apply salutogenic principles to planning, programs and aesthetics. Our design for Health Promoting Lifestyle Centres represents a departure from conventional facility models which focus narrowly on downstream causes of ill-health and disease prevention. (click on chart below for an overview of this contrast)

The potential of this new model to dramatically reduce the human and financial costs of illness is enormous.

There is growing recognition that health is an economic and human rights issue. Ill-health prevents a population from realizing its full potential. Watch this space for updates as our team, which includes Ngonyama Okpanum & Associates and Clark Nexsen, moves this innovative idea to salutogenic reality.

– Sharon VanderKaay

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  • About The Nature of Innovation

    We see our collaboration with clients and colleagues as providing a living lab for enriching the creative process. Farrow’s built work has been internationally recognized for leadership in human-centric design. This is where we come to discuss our ideas as they hatch and our experiences as they happen.
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