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Anne Marie Brodén

The importance of culture for public health is grossly underestimated. So says Anne Marie Brodén, Member of Parliament (m) and chairperson of the Society For Culture and Health in the Swedish parliament. Brodén is convinced that there is much to be gained from a broadened view of human well-being.
– I really want to bring the whole aspect of being human into the health care system – a more holistic and humanistic perspective, if you like. As patients we are much more than our injured knee, for example.
– Not least the problem with long-term sick leave, reveals how large a contribution culture can make to traditional health care. It has been proven that efforts at rehabilitation with elements of various cultural experiences have helped the long-term sick and patients with severe pain break their isolation and gain increased motivation to return to work.

So there is a need for innovative thinking in this area?
– There is unquestionably a so-called drain-pipe problem where health care traditionally has made a distinction between various areas that really belong together. Modern social planning seems to have focused more heavily on the material than the human aspect and has rationalised away important things without really understanding it.
– In order not to treadle the same old tracks, there is a need for creative thinking in politics as well as research – people who dare go first and say "this is what we believe in". When it comes to bringing together various research perspectives in the area, the Centre For Culture and Health at the University of Gothenburg is undoubtedly a trail-blazer.

What is the Society For Culture and Health in the Swedish Parliament?
– It is a group that was formed in 2007, initially by politicians within Alliansen (the governing coalition), but which today contains MPs from all parties in parliament. We try in various ways to put issues about culture as a health promoter on the agenda, not least through arranging regular seminars. Two examples of interesting seminars are Culture and Health at the Royal Dramatic Theatre and the Opera.
– We are also building a growing network which today consists of around 300 people from all around the country in counties and municipalities. We have hand-picked experts with various special interests and important knowledge to serve on our board, among other representatives of the Swedish Arts Council and Kultur på recept (Culture by recipe) in Skåne, as well as Ola Sigurdson, director of the Centre For Culture and Health.

You have yourself long been interested in the connection between culture and health?
– Yes, I have actually previously been chairperson of both Hälsofrämjandet (a Swedish organisation for promoting health) and the Swedish National Institute of Public Health and I have worked with health care issues during my tenure as chairperson of the executive board of the county of Halland. So I have seen with my own eyes what sports and culture can mean to people's health and what it means to increased growth in a county.
– Early on we pushed for what was called physical activity by recipe – physical training in order to increase public health – and which is today carried out all over the country. At the same time I asked myself why one pushes for people to go to the gym but not to attend cultural events, which really also can enrich people's lives. And today the project Kultur på recept is under way, where Skåne has come the furthest, investigating whether cultural activities and cultural experiences could be part of the rehabilitation process. The way I see it, pilot projects such as these are extraordinarily valuable since one here can test innovative thinking on a small scale and evaluate the results.

One could say that you want to broaden the focus concerning what promotes public health?
– The way I see it our public health policies outermost reflect our view of the human being, what she is and what makes her feel good. And we probably need to take a step back and think about what values we in this society prioritise. Culture often takes a back seat to things technological and material – not least noticeable when savings are carried out. But it is of course important to think about people's well-being in broad terms when one plans a new hospital or a new school, for example. In a way I believe one can talk about efforts towards culture and health in terms of consideration and an optimistic view of the future when it comes to people's creativity and inner wealth. We can do better as a society, is what I usually think.

Personal facts

Position: Member of Parliament (M) and Member of the Culture Committee
Born: 1956
Family: Husband and three children, plus grandchildren
Political interests: Health, public health and culture issues
Driving forces: A basic drive to change society for the better for people, not least for those children and young people who are vulnerable, people with disabilities and the elderly.
Leisure interests: Omnivore in the culture area – books, music and films – but also travel, cars and cultural history

[Interview by Daniel Brodén and published 2012-12-20]

Contact Information

Centre for Culture and Health

Box 200, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

Page Manager: Lovisa Aijmer|Last update: 12/20/2012
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