In other words, the problem is not one of information shortage but information overload. However, the health of the Nordic population has improved significantly over the past 20 years despite an increase in obesity and overweight. But a general improvement in public health does not mean that health inequality has decreased. Research continues to show an association between differences in education, income levels and social class and health disparities.
This is where the contribution of adult education professionals may become increasingly important both within non-formal education, vocational education and the third sector. We can provide art and culture, which has been proven to have health-promoting effects. We reach a wide audience and can easily find out what people think and wish.
DGI Underground provides a fantastic example of this role. The Danish organisation targets existing groups of teenagers who are, for instance, active skateboarders or street soccer players but not interested in joining a sports club or association. DGI Underground helps them to organise events, to make their voice heard and to seek financing for their activities. Simultaneously, this is a way of supporting activities which significantly promote integration, as these informal networks often consist of teenagers from different ethnic groups.
Another example of new thinking is a Norwegian experiment where IT is used to help disabled people to improve their lifestyle, thus providing new insights about both IT and health issues.
We know that changing young people’s negative attitudes towards health education isn’t always easy, which makes the suggestion put forward in Estonia’s article worth noting. Peeter Mardna from the Estonian Health Organization suggests that all young people and adults should sign a contract with their family doctor. In this contract, the doctor would establish a healthy level of consumption for the patient, while the patient would promise to do certain things to improve his/her health. The results would then be checked annually by the doctor and the patient.
According to Mardna, building big sport halls does not contribute to public health. Instead, a corresponding amount of money could be spent on building camping cabins or something similar to activate a larger part of the population.
The articles from the Faroe Islands and Iceland demonstrate quite clearly that established sports clubs, too, can still play an important role in promoting public health.
The field of health and culture is growing constantly, and the positive health effects of art and culture are today widely known (and accepted). High-level research and nationwide programmes are being conducted on the subject. This issue of DialogWeb provides an overview of past and current Swedish research on the link between culture and health. In addition, we get to read about a project called “Daytime Culture” currently underway in the Åland Islands. The project makes concrete use of the fact that art and culture are good for your health.
Along with municipal health and social services, the non-formal education sector is increasingly being given responsibility in the field of health promotion. One example of this is a nationwide, nine-year-long, nationwide Finnish initiative focusing on courses with health benefits. The project has strengthened the role of municipal non-formal adult education centres as co-operation partners and providers in the field of preventive health care.
I would like to sum up this issue of DialogWeb by quoting one of the slogans coined for the Finnish project so that we can spread the message to the entire Nordic and Baltic regions: “Learning is good for your health!”