The health system has worked hard over the years to medicalise the human body by developing specialisations in body parts, organs, bones and diseases. We often think of the health system as something that behaves in a cohesive way. Whereas the reality is that it’s a complex group of specialisations that we can often accuse of not joining up to represent the whole.  

Equally Well set out to disrupt this story. The collective wanted to discover ways that all people working in the complex health system could use their skills and expertise to improve health and well-being in both the physical and mental health parts of a person. 

This set of ideas has now become a movement. The success of this lies in the ability to disrupt silos and bring interested people together to work towards an outcome, rather than only treating according to the symptoms presented. The movement is strengthened by each system disruptor sharing their stories and initiatives with others who may be in a different sphere of influence.

Not one person or organisation could have achieved what the collective is constantly achieving. Equally Well has been growing, shaping and changing over the past 5-years as more people understand and get involved with intentional contributions to the collaborative. Since we all make up different parts of the system, we can look at the problem through all lenses. As service providers, people with lived experience, policy makers, intermediaries, professional associations, and government agencies, our combined influence helps the whole. 

Equally Well humanises the health system by making lived experience central to everything.

Equally Well humanises the health system by making lived experience central to everything. The power and vision of the strategic leadership group is crucial in this space and ensures a language of inclusion and dignity. The success is underpinned by the group being made up of people who have used the system. Their experiences make a major contribution to process, language, and how specialisations can impact on the whole person. 

Equally Well uses Loomio, an online tool, to create a neutral place for the network to engage with each other. Loomio provides an online space for almost 400 committed people from all over New Zealand to have conversations around topics they are interested in. The platform removes traditional hierarchies so we can ask a question and receive advice and support from people who all bring a wealth of different experiences and knowledge.

Charles Rosenberg wrote an article called The Tyranny of Diagnoses: Specific Entities and Individual Experience. In it, he said, “we are never illness or disease, but, rather, always their sum in the world of day-to-day experience.” Equally Well’s strength is its recognition to treat each person as a connected whole, not just the sum of body parts, organs, bones, disease and a mind.

With this and the achievements above in mind, we’re excited about what the next five years will bring!

Written by: Paulien Fa’atafa, Project manager at Platform Trust.