By VicHealth CEO, Dr Sandro Demaio
Why we must build a common understanding of what a wellbeing economy can offer Victoria.
I’m sure that, like me, you’ve been part of personal and professional conversations throughout the pandemic about what a ‘good life’ looks like for our community, both now and into the future.
With many of the communities we live in and work with under extreme stress, we’re seeing pre-existing inequities deepening and having real and lasting impacts on people’s lives.
In the health sector and more broadly, ‘wellbeing’ is a term that is more and more commonly used to describe the idea of ‘a good life’.
When we talk about wellbeing at VicHealth, we see it as something beyond the absence of disease. It encompasses concepts of thriving individuals and communities, equity and social justice, environmental sustainability – as well as social, economic and cultural sustainability – and planetary health, and culturally diverse and enduring knowledges.
And core to that is an understanding that promoting wellbeing isn’t just about a good life for today’s citizens. We need to think about the long-term implications of policy decisions, and how they can lead to future generations flourishing in an equitable and sustainable society.
It has been clear for a long time to many of us that GDP is not an accurate measure of how we’re doing as a society. And it cannot indicate what life will be like for future Victorians.
The concept of ‘wellbeing’ is far more useful for understanding how we’re all doing, and, of course, how the planet around us and future generations will do as well. Shifting to a wellbeing economy approach can benefit everybody.
Last year, VicHealth commissioned The George Institute for Global Health to report on how best to embed wellbeing into policy-making.
That report — Integrating wellbeing into the business of government: The feasibility of innovative legal and policy measures to achieve sustainable development in Australia — is an incredibly useful look at concrete examples of how complex policy change has been achieved internationally, and what factors could underpin a similar approach in Victoria and Australia.
Our hope is that by bringing together policy, practice and research experts from health, environment, community services and youth sectors, we can build a common understanding of what wellbeing economies can offer, and how they can be applied in Victoria.
It has been clear for a long time to many of us that GDP is not an accurate measure of how we’re doing as a society.
The Victorian Treasurer and the Federal Shadow Treasurer have already publicly stated their support for similar approaches, and we believe this is an ideal time to come together and build on existing momentum within Victoria, interstate and internationally.
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that the social determinants of health are very real. The deep cracks of inequity, which we have ignored or thinly papered over for decades, have become unavoidable.
As we look to the future, we must take this opportunity to gather momentum, to gather allies, and to set our sights on a much healthier, fairer way of measuring progress and wellbeing within the context of our political economies.
I’m looking forward to being part of the conversation about what a wellbeing economy might look like in Victoria, both now and into the future.