Further to my interview with Will Varey in Perth about emergence in the city (also see Blog) we talked about the dilemma that in one location we have multiple cities. Effectively each citizen carries around a unique mental model of the city and through the magic of self-organizing systems we negotiate this complex territory.

The implications of multiple cities is astounding. It not only means that we have to reconcile many perspectives on how to share our one location, but how do we reconcile many perspectives about what constitutes health and wellbeing? While health care ministries across the world struggle to administer health standards, what most of them have not yet seen is that in one city we have many healths.

Many healths? What does that mean? It means that certainly every culture develops norms about what constitutes health and wellbeing. It is a central tenet around which cultures function because it is critical to their very survival. In the time before globalization (remember that not so very long ago??) these differing views of health were essentially contained in the geographies where those cultures were situated.

But in our modern cities, all the cultures of the world co-exist. And so we are faced with the relatively new phenomenon of one city and many healths. This is quite a challenge to whatever dominant culture has set out the standards and boundaries of any underlying health system. Take for example what we are most familiar with in North America. Our health systems are generally defined by the Euro-centric allopathic view of acute health care. In most North American health systems the defenders of that view of health tend to vociferously ward off influences from other views and practices of health – what is popularly called “alternative health” practices. But in other parts of the world those health practices may be the norm (including practices like acupuncture, homeopathy, herbalism, energy healing, ayurveda, plus many more). So in the modern city we have a clash of healths.

This clash of healths is real not virtual because it embraces the privileges of power, the allocation of funding and resources, the training of people and the management of health facilities. This reality calls forth a different approach than trying to merely prove one health practice better than another. It calls forth an integral view where each health can be considered true but partial. That is each health brings something different to the health table.

Moreover each health might offer a distinctly appropriate modality of healing to any given individual because it is appropriate to the person, their culture, their life conditions and their developmental level. Because the healths that any individual might respond to can even change over a life time and can certainly change depending on a person’s geographic and life situation – for example health that is related to family relationships and belonging may be the most appropriate healing modality for someone who is exhibiting symptoms that an allopathic system fails to treat with drugs and surgery.

What does this all mean for any given city of today? It means that every modern city needs multiple views of health and multiple healing modalities to maintain these healths. Just as Singapore with its four major belief systems offers multiple days of faith-based holidays, cities need to offer health systems that offer multiple ways to practise health to all the key cultural nodes in their boundaries. Far from being too expensive a practice to pursue, such an approach to health can be immediately more effective because it is matching the right resource(s) to the right health situation(s).

This kind of approach to multiple healths would essentially create a health meshwork which would support the multiple healths for individuals within those key cultures. And moreover a health system that offered this would then create the foundation for the many healths to learn (more)  from each other. No doubt, in the trajectory of meshworks, this would lead to new discoveries, innovations and more advanced health and wellbeing systems.