Lifestyle, Health and Disease: Changing Concepts of Balance in Modern Medicine
In 2008, Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, suggested that: 'A world that is out of balance in matters of health is neither stable nor secure.' By explaining global health in terms of balance, Dr Chan was mobilising traditional medical beliefs in the relationship between physiological, psychological and political stability and health, from ancient humoral medicine through to modern injunctions to maintain physical balance and fitness, achieve work-life balance, and protect the balance of nature in order to safeguard health and well-being.
The aim of this research is to analyse ways in which changing notions of balance have shaped scientific and clinical models of healthy lifestyles and to understand the manner in which preoccupations with balance have structured our lives. The central premise is that balance has constituted not only an object for scientific and clinical enquiry, but also a rhetorical construct employed to articulate shifting anxieties about well-being, environmental sustainability, and political security.
The project will focus on three overlapping themes:
1. The development, application and reception of scientific theories of, and therapeutic strategies for attaining, bodily balance.
2. Scientific and clinical accounts and patient experiences of coping with mental illness and maintaining work-life balance.
3. Arguments about the relationship between ecological balance and the prevention of chronic diseases, including mental illness, obesity and heart disease.
Academic publications, impact activities and the creation of a critical mass of inter-disciplinary researchers will generate a richer understanding of clinical approaches to, and experiences of, changing relationships between lifestyle, health and disease.