Ah, February, Mon amour. The month of all things heart shaped and chocolate coated. But it does appear that there is a whole lot more than love in the air this month. According to China Dialogue, air pollutant levels in the counties capital, Hong Kong, are extortionately high with roadside pollutant levels exceeding government targets a ‘record-breaking 20% of the time’. Various outlets have been blamed for the escalating levels. Schemes to reduce the carbon emissions of new vehicles have been met with some success but any benefits have been counteracted by the failure to ensure that the ‘oldest and most polluting’ vehicles are taken out of service. Lack of solid government policy on the issue as well as there being no ‘appropriately qualified government body responsible for measuring or preventing the public health impacts of air pollution’ have also been blamed for the escalating levels. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that poor air quality will have a detrimental effect on Hong Kong’s economic, environmental, and physical and mental health and wellbeing. Perhaps it’s time all agencies, be they governmental, environmental, manufacturing or health, got together and put their differences to one side and started working together to clear the air, for everyone’s sake.
It appears that February is not just a time for love-struck couples to get together. In early February the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics got together with several key thinkers in the field of wellbeing to answer the tricky question: is economic growth essential for wellbeing? Speakers, including Professor Tim Jackson, nef’s Anna Coote, and David Skelton from Policy Exchange, tackled the question head on through a mixture of presentations and Q&A’s. The discussion is available in audio format on NEF’s website and makes for interesting listening. Whilst each speaker brought differing approaches to the table, all were unanimous in the belief that there is ‘much more to well-being than economic growth’.
There’s no doubt that the arts and creative industries have suffered significantly under the wielding axe of government cuts. However, if you look closely enough you may find arts projects popping up in the most unlikely of places. The Guardian reports how wards and atriums of hospitals in central Manchester became a hub of all things creative in February with a week-long series of events ‘aimed at promoting health and wellbeing through exposure to art and culture’. Culture Shots is a pioneering scheme between local artists, performers and the Central Manchester NHS trust. Patients and staff were treated to live performance pieces, the chance to take and develop their own photographs and the opportunity to sit for portraits as well as many other interactive events. As well as increasing patient and staff wellbeing, the benefits of art and culture focused projects are thought to have a positive impact on patient’s health and recovery also. Wendy Gallagher, arts and health programme manager at the Whitworth gallery and Manchester Museum, suggests how evidence indicates that ‘if there's an activity taking place during a person's stay in hospital it can reduce the need for analgesia’. It would be interesting to see if other trusts take up the mantle set by Manchester and start using art to recognise the people behind the patient.