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  • Writer's pictureShimon Waldfogel

Embracing Salutogenesis: A Journey from Personal Inspiration to Societal Transformation

Meeting Aaron Antonovsky, the founder of the salutogenic model, 45 years ago at the medical school in Beer Sheva, Israel, was a turning point in my life. His unique approach to understanding health - focusing not on disease, but on what enables people to thrive - left a lasting impression on me. It was a perspective that shaped the entire curriculum of our medical school, emphasizing the significance of life experiences in developing a person's sense of coherence and resilience.

Fast forward to my retirement from a fulfilling career in psychiatry, and I find myself revisiting Antonovsky’s salutogenic model with renewed interest. This approach, which considers health not merely as the absence of illness but as a state of positive functioning, has profound implications for our healthcare system and society at large.
Antonovsky’s curiosity about the resilience of Holocaust survivors led him to formulate the core question of salutogenesis: How do people maintain well-being amidst constant risks and threats? Since his passing in 1994, salutogenesis has gained traction, especially in Europe, inspiring various research and interventions.

My re-engagement with salutogenesis was spurred by Dr. Sir Harry Burns’s talk, "What causes wellness?" Dr. Burns, once the chief medical officer of Scotland, applied the salutogenic model to tackle the opioid crisis in Scotland. His work demonstrated how this paradigm provides a comprehensive framework for individual, community, and societal health.

Today, I view salutogenesis as a model that complements and enriches existing healthcare frameworks like the biopsychosocial-spiritual approach, population health, and others. It empowers individuals as political agents, addressing issues like marginalization and alienation that are detrimental to societal well-being.

Personal experiences have shown me the power of salutogenesis in coping with national challenges. Understanding and managing stressors in a meaningful way has been key to maintaining my sense of well-being. This realization drove me to delve deeper into the political ecosystem of the US, striving to make a significant impact as an informed citizen.
Incorporating digital technology into salutogenic models has further enhanced its relevance and impact. This integration allows for a more profound understanding and mapping of various ecosystems, making the process more meaningful and effective.
Salutogenesis has become central to my efforts in the Citizenism Project, an initiative to reclaim my role as a citizen and honor my political agency. It aligns with the Institute for Salutogenesis's Democracy of Opportunity Moonshot, which is guided by the American Creed and aims to create a more equitable and thriving society by 2026, reflecting the promise of our founders.

This journey from a personal encounter with Antonovsky to embracing and expanding upon his model reflects a deep commitment to not just understanding health in a new light, but actively working towards societal betterment. It's a testament to the enduring power and relevance of the salutogenic model in today’s world.

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