In the scientific world of today, the focus of healthcare delivery has shifted from the ancients’ emphasis on ‘health’ to the modern preoccupation with ‘sickness’. Our cities and institutions reflect this change in their design and in their organisation of services.
There are now separate establishments to support ‘medical services’, ‘education’ and ‘socio-cultural’ pursuits. There is even a separation in the sites and in the organisational systems that are directly involved in the delivery of ‘healthcare’ itself, e.g. the primary and secondary care installations such as hospitals and local community healthcare centres and this extends to social care and to counselling agencies. These arrangements and their established systems have created both ‘structural’ and ‘conceptual’ boundaries that serve to separate the components of our healthcare systems as well as to cut them off from their traditional links with the natural environment including the related socio-cultural and educational worlds. They provide an isolationist and competitive ethos rather than a synergistic environment in which to deliver services.
Today, there are no suitable societal structures (let alone establishments), which could cover the overall needs that are related to an holistic view of man and his well-being. There is therefore a less emphasis on the quality of life and a greater concern with the quantity (or rationing) of the services that should be delivered. There is also a dependency on centralised hierarchies and economic models as the driving forces. The general well being, trust and empowerment of those seeking information and knowledge concerning their health and their health maintenance has been overlooked and there is currently a divisive force between the information rich and the information poor.
These modern societal structures and concepts are not in line with the principles promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) where ‘health’ is described as "the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being". The WHO philosophical approach is much more closely aligned to that of those who created the myth of Asclepios and to that of the believers in the ‘pre-scientific’ Christian era. It is now however becoming evident again, that there is a necessity for the balanced development and the essential well being of every individual in society and it is increasingly being recognised that modern lifestyles need the re-awakening of modern Asclepieions.
Most cities today have some open green spaces, where the concepts of an asclepieion park could also be established. Citizens of all ages could then enjoy an agreeable and inviting environment where the natural world, health and socio-cultural activities could be brought together. This approach would have a considerable positive impact on the health and well being of all our cities and on all city residents. The new developments taking place in the growth of the information society are now making it possible to achieve such ‘cross sector’ activities and the cities of the future will need to provide both the environment and the services, which are directed toward an holistic view of needs.
The Modern Asclepieion Movement has the ambition to provide such facilities and to contribute decisively to the search for immediate and effective integrated solutions to the complex and perplexing lifestyle stresses and the organisational problems that are faced by modern societies. Economic forces are part of this endeavour and the business and industrial sectors will need to come together with the other ‘stakeholders’ to create the new ‘health movement’ of the future.