Thursday, April 8, 2010

Study leave in Bhutan - why Bhutan?

We are starting an adventure in Bhutan, my wife and two boys 11 and 13 years of age and I are here for 8 months. I am teaching public health epidemiology to 26 students in the inauguaral Bachelor of Public Health Program in Thimphu at the Royal Institute of Health Sciences.  I am also doing some fact finding on operationalising Gross National Happiness from a public health perspective and looking into how Bhutan implemented and now manages their national ban on the sale of tobacco.  Bhutan's insistence on basing policy on a sound values base is unique and I am sure there is much to learn from this country. It contrasts greatly with the confusion of public policy making in the west.  I once asked a senior population health practitioner what was the foundational rationale for the activities of their unit - he responded by referring to the Precede-Proceed Model.  While the model is an excellent planning tool and emphasises community consultation, it is really only a methodology for doing, not knowing what is right to be doing.  Sensing my dissatisfaction with this response he suggested my search was "veering off into philosophy or spirituality or something like that".  So I have veered off to Bhutan. Perhaps the Mahayana Buddhist philosophy that inspired the concept of Gross National Happiness can provide insight for us in the west as well.

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