Our Erasmus+ funded project “ECOLAH – Embracing a Complexity-Orientated Learning Approach in Health” develops a better understanding of how the complex social challenge of a healthy society can be (better) influenced and co-driven by higher education.
COMPLEXITY CONCERNS ALL ASPECTS OF SOCIETY
Due to increasing globalization, technological advances, and sociological changes our world is becoming more complex. Complexity has gone from large systems to organizational and individual levels. Today it concerns all aspects of society and specifically the health of citizens.
An example of complexity at different levels are the grand societal challenges summed up by the United Nations Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Each SDG is complex by itself and holds interrelations. In which SDG3, that seeks to ensure healthy lives and to promote well-being at all ages, is essential to sustainable development.
With less than 10 years remaining, there is an urgent need to implement innovative methodologies to realize the UN 2030 Agenda. And higher education must play an important part in this.
As a responsible and forward-thinking consortium, we see the need to take up the grand societal challenge of a healthy society at a transnational level, and to prepare (future) professionals to anticipate better the complexity of contemporary health challenges. This became even more obvious during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BETTER UNDERSTANDING COMPLEXITY
To understand the complexity of given challenges requires a mind-shift and consequent action towards innovation and systemic changes conceptualised in sustainability transition. This includes the variety of stakeholders involved in the field of health and higher education.
It entails the fundamental challenge for higher education stakeholders to develop new thinking about the multiple causes and interrelations of problems related to the health of citizens.
Broad stakeholder acceptance of shared strategies must be gained. And higher education needs to open up to new insights about the multiple pathways required towards a healthy society.
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SUPPORTING THE TRANSITION IN CARE FOR HEALTH
In this context, our consortium sees the need to better accept the complexity faced in the field of health (education) across disciplines. We need to support the transition in care for health by challenging the decontextualized evidence base of health sciences. We see the need to challenge the reactive orientation on health problems instead of perceiving health as a capability.
We must prepare our educators and students towards this complexity and support them to find new possibilities in the complex mixture of social, chronic, and multi-morbidity issues in public health. We need to offer them ground for evidence-informed practice in the care for health.
This includes better comprehension of context, skills, strategies, and practices for implementation related to complexity-oriented learning approaches (COLA) in health education. It demands more focus on the third (engagement) mission of higher education institutes (HEI) and to find congruence and alignment with the first (education) and second (research) missions.