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Vol. 3, Issue 1. March 2017



A partnership for culture and health
By Zsuzsanna Jakab, Regional Director, Editor-in-chief, and Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director‑General for Culture, UNESCO

“A more culture‑centred approach to health communication can facilitate participation and enhance health and well‑being."  Continue reading

Helping WHO to place health in its cultural contexts

Drawn up in response to a string of cholera epidemics, the 1848 Public Health Act sought to improve the sanitary conditions of the working poor in towns and cities across England and Wales. The Act responded to increasing evidence that diseases such as cholera, typhus and typhoid were connected to a lack of sanitation; that deaths from these diseases affected the poor disproportionately; and that preventing these deaths made good economic sense and would drastically reduce the amount of money paid out by the government in the form of poor relief. Read more

Panorama people

Interview with Professor Mark Jackson

Panorama People meets Professor Mark Jackson, Professor of the History of Medicine and co‑Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Culture and Health at the University of Exeter. “I was interested in how we use evidence to identify disease and how that contrasts with our personal understanding and experience of illness; following on from that, how do we begin to construct ways of coping with, managing and curing illness?"... Read more

Articles in this issue

Social construction of mental disabilities in Russian residential care institutions

The paper examines the situation of people with mental disabilities currently living in long‑term residential institutions in the Russian Federation, with a primary focus on congenital intellectual and developmental disabilities. The goal was to reveal the ways in which contemporary Russian society conceptualizes disabilities by describing the attitudes towards disability of different groups of care‑workers in an institutional setting.The research is based on qualitative methodology, and the data was collected mainly by participant observation and analysed using grounded theory methodology.

Healthy dimension of proper meal: eating practices in St. Petersburg

In the Russian Federation, social studies focus on the general attitude towards a healthy diet as well on the analysis of food content. However, there is a lack of qualitative studies that reveal how people embed healthy eating in everyday life. The article discusses how people reflect on health aspects in determining the concept of a proper dinner and what is considered healthy or unhealthy to eat and whether ordinary eaters follow the principles of healthy eating in actual life. The data and findings are based on empirical research conducted by the authors in 2013 and 2014. The everyday eating practices of inhabitants of St Petersburg were investigated. The data were collected through a survey and in‑depth interviews. The findings show that people identify a proper meal by means of the food composition, food categories, product qualities, cooking methods, time and regularity, as well as the social environment and health benefits. However, people do not always follow the principles of healthy eating in actual practice.

Exhibiting health and medicine as culture

This paper discusses the potential role of medical museums in public engagement with health and medicine, based on the work of Medical Museion at the University of Copenhagen. Rather than asking whether cultural venues such as museums can directly improve the well-being of their visitors, we instead focus on how museums should communicate about health and medicine. The paper describes three examples of exhibitions at Medical Museion that attempt to display medicine as culture, and draws out three of the key strategies they employ. The three key strategies are: (1) medicine is presented through historically specific material objects; (2) these objects are used to explore the processes of research and the evolution of practice; and (3) exhibitions are designed to emphasize an implied relationship between the objects’ functions and the visitor’s own body.

Perceptions of health and illness, and the role of healers in Kyrgyzstan

Beliefs about health and illness greatly influence people’s health‑seeking strategies and practices. In this article, I show the persistence of traditional views on health and illness among the Kyrgyz. I discuss the role of traditional Kyrgyz healers, who have experienced waves of support, indifference or neglect from the authorities, but can now work freely in the market. This paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, between 2011 and 2013. I used qualitative methods, namely, unstructured or partly structured interviews, talks and participant observation.

Nutrition education as a vector for sociocultural integration? Lessons from the case-study of the “Roma” families of the Sénart project, France

Between 2000 and 2007, 34 Roma families participated in an exceptional affirmative action programme addressed to a specific ethnic minority in France. These families had been living for 10 years in the urban interstices of the conurbation of Sénart, a lower-middle‑class residential area on the outskirts of Paris. In the wake of the urban policies against social exclusion launched in the mid-1990s, the Sénart Project developed a local public action that combined accommodation and a social accompaniment programme, which included an educational component to teach healthy eating, time organization and household budget management.By focusing on the nutrition‑related actions implemented, in this article I analyse how the cultural aspects of food and eating habits were addressed within the project.

Evaluation of the implementation of intercultural mediation in preventive healthcare programs in Slovenia

This article presents the evaluation of a pilot implementation of intercultural mediation for Albanian‑speaking women in the Slovene city of Celje. An intercultural mediator was introduced with the aim of improving access to and the quality of health care delivered to Albanian‑speaking women in Celje and, more specifically, of improving the quality of communication between health‑care professionals and Albanian‑speaking women. This evaluation was carried out between September and December 2015 at the Health Promotion Centre in the Community Health Centre Celje, where the intercultural mediator for Albanian language was involved in health education workshops. At the end of each workshop, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire evaluating the programme.

Pharmaceutical waste in the environment: a cultural perspective

There has been a significant rise in the use of medical pharmaceuticals to combat disease and ill‑health across the WHO European Region. However, global estimates suggest that over half of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed or sold inappropriately, and that half of all patients fail to take them as directed. As well as impacting negatively on individual health, and resulting in extensive resource waste, pharmaceutical use – and “misuse” – can have significant adverse repercussions on wildlife and ecosystems, particularly when unused medicines are disposed of inappropriately. This paper examines the rise in medicine (mis)use, and considers what is known about pharmaceutical waste in the environment. While technological responses to alleviate the impacts of pharmaceutical waste exist, they are costly and complex, and do not address the root causes of the problem.
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