Getting ill oneself is very instructive for a medical doctor (MD). When specializing as a young general practitioner I became quite ill myself. I was taken into hospital and had an operation. While recovering, I realized how different it was to know about a disease from being the patient with the disease.

One experiences so much, physically - your body informs you quite clearly what it needs - and emotionally - feeling so vulnerable -, all of which is of influence on your wellbeing. I realized that during my years of training as an MD my experiencing the world had changed into thinking in chemical processes. Being a patient was quite something different! After this first illness I had three more different ones within for years and I became an experienced patient. 

This inspired me, after recovery, to aim for a broadening of healthcare. My conviction was that there is so much to gain for the wellbeing of patients by this. I became a researcher, as I wanted also to search for a scientific basis for this view. A path of research also encountering neighbouring themes, lead me - via the definition of health - to a patient’s perspective on health, that is very broad. I categorized it into 6 dimensions, about the physical, the mental, the spiritual, quality of life, social life and daily functioning. I called this ‘Positive Health’, inspired by a discussion I encountered in the minutes of the founders of the WHO, who aimed for a broad perspective. This Positive Health-approach I interpret as a way of integrated care that can very well meet the patients needs.

Machteld Huber, MD PhD, is keynote spreker at ICIC

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