On 20 September 2012 Professor Pauline Meurs will present doctor and researcher Machteld Huber with a special award (a ‘Parel’, or ‘Pearl’) for her work on a new concept of health, which defines health as people’s ability to adapt and self-manage in response to the physical, emotional and social challenges of life.

WHO-definition
Huber describes the new concept as about ‘positive health’. The concept does not focus on the ‘state of complete well-being’, as the current WHO definition of health does, by which merely nobody is healthy. The WHO definition has inadvertently promoted medicalisation, encouraging people and healthcare practitioners to be continually concerned with fighting disease, and neglecting opportunities for people to lead a meaningful life.

Resilience and self-management
Health is a dynamic phenomenon, and should be seen as an integral part of the art of living, rather than something we consider only when illness occurs. Of course illness must be treated where possible, but we should also focus on strengthening resilience, self-management and ‘health literacy’.

Cutting-edge international initiative
Huber is now exploring how the new concept can be further specified for various fields of healthcare, and how ‘positive health’, and the impact of new policies with this perpective, can be measured. This is a cutting-edge international initiative, which has already produced a paper in the British Medical Journal. The next steps in fleshing out the concept will also involve international collaboration. The ZonMw award recognises Huber’s efforts.

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