#43 Good Health and Wellbeing – pigs can fly!

Image of UN goal 3
Image by United Nations

What a way to begin a Consequences blog by having the topic of good health and wellbeing and then align it with a pig!

I feel I need to explain a little further. Firstly Consequences Blog#43 is dedicated to the Sustainability Development Goal Target 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing.

I am extremely confident that I will not receive any argument that we only wish good health and wellbeing for all in the world. So how does the ‘flying pig’ come into this equation you may ask?

In an article Fully grown pig chimeras are only a few years away – understand where they stand nowthe fact that our good health and wellbeing may come from growing organs from transplants in animals (such as pigs) has brought with it a barrage of ethical debates.

I wonder how the argument would sway if I was to say that the world’s health and wellbeing issues and Global Goal #3 could be completely resolved by using animals like ‘pigs’ in this way?

Starting with Australia we may need more than ‘flying pigs’ as Australians are living longer but getting sicker – a plan to keep them out of hospital has been quite a topical debate – never mind the pigs!

This fragmentation is compounded by the way we pay for our health (in Australia)…. there is an old split between the federal and state government roles…. most of the noise around health politics comes from financial stress.

Keeping a nation healthy is just as important as its economical and environmental wealth. Whether a location is classed as wealthy or not the issues that surround health and wellbeing continue to be a challenge and this has something to do with the fact that all human beings have ‘biological’ clocks that also need balancing. Ancient clock that rules our lives – and determines our health is something that the very fast pace of life has definitely impacted upon across the ages. The key point for now is that the world is the fastest it has ever been – which I describe as a world of extreme changes. This then leads me to ponder what is actually happening to our biological clocks?

The biological clock helps regulate sleep patterns’ feeding behaviour’ hormone release, blood pressure… this is based on a circadian clock which also stops everything happening at the same time, ensuring that biological processes occur in the appropriate sequence. For cells to work properly they need the right materials in the right place at the right time.

It is the alignment between circadian forces (nature) that are fundamental to not only the wellbeing of health but also environmental and economical domains – often referred to as the ecosystem – that cannot be ignored. I would argue that the ecosystem has never really been able to be ignored but the impact of any dis-combobulation has not been as obvious. It has only been while living in this fast pace of life or within the world of extreme changes that the negative trajectories such as good health and wellbeing are interested and not shared by all.

The challenge of good health and wellbeing being shared by all is an issue even for the wealthiest countries. Taking Australia as an example there are reports of illness and disease being found in the very establishments – hospitals – built as pillars of society to ‘fix’ health and wellbeing.

Here’s how many people get infections in Australian hospitals every year.

Australia does not undertake surveys of the prevalence of infections in hospital, nor does it have a national surveillance system that collects and reports data on hospital –acquired infections. Australia is one of the only countries in the OECD that lacks such basic information.

I find this statistic quite staggering on both a personal and curiosity level. Thirty years ago when I was involved in a tragic car accident where I was placed in an induced coma and suffered extreme injuries – I also suffered a hospital infection. Three decades on and the same issues are prevalent and possibly intensified with additional systemic concerns. It is a requirement of the OECD to have some form of a national understanding and co-ordination of such infections and Australia has no single system in place.

I would like to extend the topic of ‘single system’ (or lack of single system) as this context has appeared as a root cause in many of the Consequences Blogs and particularly those where I have considered the Sustainability Development Goals. Drawing on my own research for any goal to be successful it must have the ability to STRADDLE™ the tension between structure (stability) and spontaneity (dynamism). By way of this I am referring to the ability to have systems that can centralize the important frames whilst leaving room for flexibility especially in meeting local needs. Having drawn the learning from my research STRADDLE™ is presented as a mobilizing frame to assist with the rewiring of the competition paradox that is very much required in these fast moving times of extreme changes.

Delivering health and wellbeing in ways that may have worked in prevailing paradigms may not be the answer for the future – especially in meeting the complex needs of a fast moving and world of extreme changes.

Other challenges like being ‘fit for purpose’ and the ‘cause and effect’ of systems is prevalent even in wealthier countries that suffer health and wellbeing issues. A good example of this is through those issues related to over indulgence – obesity. Tackling obesity often means tackling systems where the good intentions and ‘cause’ can actually have an adverse ‘effect’. An example of this can be found in the argument – Why the government should tax unhealthy foods and subsidise notorious ones.

Some of the structures like overdue dates on food have not only created more wastage of food but enable the readily availability of more processed and unhealthy foods – hence the link with obesity. This ‘cause and effect’ is almost the pattern and circle of life and can be articulated for many experiences. The difference in the circular economy is that the pace of life in this world of extreme changes is fast and therefore decisions must not be based on what worked yesteryear.

The world of extreme changes brings different health and wellbeing issues especially as the needs of the human race evolve. Such changes are well evidenced by the human body itself as neatly argued in In an article titled Do we loose gains from exercise as our bodies get used to it?

The argument around results plateauing is a great reminder that doing the same action on a repetitive basis will only after a while plateau – where the same as you have always achieved is achieved. As the article suggests changing the workout (flexibility) under specific principles (structure) is most effective. There are always some basic rules ie energy input must not exceed energy output – that will always be commonplace but the approach, setting and challenges can and must always change.

To ensure that good health and wellbeing can be something that is shared by all humans around the world are players within the circular economy. In this I strongly agree that it is important to accept that approaches will need to take many different forms. There are some factors that must not be ignored and Michael Marmot clearly outlines some of these in a speech titled –What’s equity got to do with health in a higher density city.

Marmot drawing on the work of Barton and Grant (2006) and their health map, advocates for structures to be nimble to meet the needs of those living within those structures.

 High-density living is increasingly trumpeted as “healthy”. But without supportive infrastructure based on an understanding of specific geographic contexts community needs, tis way of living will pose significant health risks

 So if we are truly to see our health and wellbeing ‘pigs fly’ – I think we have found the place to start!



Barton H and Grant M (2006) A health map for the local human habitat ‘Perspectives in Public Health’ Volume: 26 issues: 6, 252-253

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