The MWS Podcast 41: Sir Harry Burns on the causes of wellness

My guest today is Sir Harry Burns, who is the professor of global public health at the University of Strathclyde and a former  Chief Medical Officer for Scotland. He begins by talking to us about why poor people take longer to recover from illness, the causes of inequality in health and the causes of wellness. He then goes on to talk about some solutions that he has implemented alongside other potential ideas and how this all might relate to the Middle Way.

My friend, Willie Grieve first brought the work of Sir Harry to my attention and you can find a very interesting and helpful article by him which gives an overview of the subject here.

MWS Podcast 41: Sir Harry Burns as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_41_Sir_Harry_Burns

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About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

One thought on “The MWS Podcast 41: Sir Harry Burns on the causes of wellness

  1. Another superb and highly engaging podcast! The end was a salutary reminder of how much people can just engage with the Middle Way in practice through experience and reflection, even if they don’t particularly use it as a formal concept. Sir Harry seems to be in that category.

    There are lots of other links with the Middle Way in what he said, though. Perhaps the most important is the stress response and the way in which this can deny us the basic security we need to engage with the world’s challenges and potentials. I’d suggest that there’s a big link between the stress response and the craving for certainty, and the Middle Way as an acceptance of uncertainty thus interacts deeply with a basic level of human health and security. Without those lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy as a foundation, it’s much more difficult for us to cultivate the Middle Way. At the same time, though, even those who have been badly afflicted by early stress and insecurity can still work effectively with those conditions using the Middle Way – ‘more difficult’ does not mean ‘impossible’.

    Another interesting thing I found in the podcast was Harry’s political breadth and insight. He was critical of the effects of austerity, but seemed to be connecting this more with the dogmatic commitment to growth rather than necessarily advocating old-fashioned left-wing Keynesian growth economics as an alternative to austerity. My guess is that he would recognise that austerity is as much an effect of previous over-commitment to growth as it is of the more recent panic measures in response to the threat of economic collapse. At the same time as being critical of austerity, he recognised the importance of moral capital in society, which is a more typically conservative concern. If social norms simply disintegrate along with family and community relationships, people do not have a secure starting point from which to engage with new challenges. His sympathetic references to his political masters in Scotland also suggest that the Scottish Nationalist government may be taking a more joined-up and progressive attitude to these issues than any of the English parties.

    All in all, an inspiring podcast. It’s especially good to have a discussion that so strongly relates psychological to social and political issues. People too often put a big dividing line between ‘public’ and ‘private’ issues, and I think it’s part of our task to challenge that.

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