In public well being circles, the social determinants of well being are well-known. They’re situations the place we stay, work, study, and play that have an effect on well being and high quality of life—issues like training, employment, well being care, and entry to protected housing, transportation, and nutritious meals.
Impressed by this, David Fakunle coined a brand new time period: the existential determinants of well being. As he defined, “We’re all people, and all of us need the identical issues.”
Acknowledgement. Appreciation. Respect. Understanding. Love. “Every little thing we do is out of the will to attain these issues,” he stated.
Fakunle is the chief director of WombWork Productions, a Baltimore-based social change performing arts firm. He additionally earned a PhD in psychological well being from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Faculty of Public Well being and is an affiliate college member there. Combining his ardour for performing arts and storytelling and his public well being experience, Fakunle helped launch the Existential Determinants of Well being Initiative with a grant from JHU’s Innovation Fund for Neighborhood Security.
The Innovation Fund is a four-year, $6 million initiative to help group packages in Baltimore that intention to deal with the basis causes of violence within the metropolis. WombWork, in partnership with Virtues Matter, is one in every of 9 grant recipients.
A lightweight bulb went off
Fakunle has been a performer since childhood and concerned with WombWork since he was an adolescent. Whereas performing with the corporate throughout his doctoral research, a light-weight bulb went off. “WombWork has been a public well being group your entire time,” he stated. “I simply by no means realized it.”
WombWork creates an area the place you may specific your self creatively, inform your story unapologetically, be seen and valued for you who’re, and discover the help of a group going by means of related struggles. This helps members heal and handle their trauma. It simply occurs to be by means of performing arts.
“We had been on the lookout for distinctive tasks,” stated Shatabdi Patel, program supervisor for the Innovation Fund at Hopkins. “We had been open to attempting one thing new as a result of what’s been finished hasn’t been efficient sufficient in lowering violence.”
For the primary yr of the initiative, a bunch of 25 members who’ve handled substance abuse dysfunction met weekly to work on their therapeutic and their performances. Subjects coated in this system curriculum addressed bodily, psychological, non secular, and monetary well being.
“There are a lot of methods we will attempt to meet these fundamental human wants,” Fakunle stated. “We are able to do it in wholesome methods. Typically we do it in unhealthy methods. Substance Use Dysfunction may be an try and fill these wants. We’re attempting to create wholesome, useful, collaborative methods to attain human needs.”
For a lot of, use issues domesticate a path towards violence—both as a perpetrator, or usually as a sufferer. Existential Determinants of Well being, or EDOH, helps scale back alternatives for violence, taking individuals off the streets and out of conditions the place they are often taken benefit of.
There may be proof of the effectiveness of an arts-based strategy, and it additionally occurs to contain WombWork and Johns Hopkins. In 2001, WombWork partnered with the JHU Faculty of Nursing on an arts-based initiative for the prevention of violence towards ladies and ladies. This was included in a five-year research by the Facilities for Illness Management that confirmed the arts-based mannequin was efficient in lowering violent conduct amongst youth in 4 city center faculties.
Discovering that means
Arjun Chanmugam, vice chair of emergency medication for the Johns Hopkins College Faculty of Medication and professor of emergency medication, is the school advisor for the EDOH. program. Chanmugam cited notable thinkers from his psychiatry textbook that help this system’s beliefs: Aristotle’s perception that the best advantage we will obtain is to observe what we expect is correct. And Viktor Frankl’s thought that discovering that means, and doing issues which have that means for us, can enhance bodily and psychological well being.
“I imagine that everyone has a superpower, and when you permit individuals to carry out their superpower—no matter it’s—it brings happiness and success,” Chanmugam stated. “For individuals in deprived neighborhoods or these struggling from hostile occasions, it is more durable to find your superpower. There are methods we may also help all people get to their full potential, and that is what Existential Determinants of Well being is all about.”
Chanmugam stated he was overwhelmed by the success of the primary cohort, which completed yr one this summer season.
“They exceeded my expectations,” he stated. “Individuals who had been initially withdrawn and reluctant to work together had been remarkably engaged. They had been prepared to achieve out and assist others who’re having related issues.”
This hits two of this system’s objectives, in line with Chanmugam. One was to assist members turn out to be leaders in the neighborhood. The opposite was to unravel the group’s issues from inside, quite than somebody coming from outdoors and telling them what they need to do.
In this system’s second yr, some alumni will mentor and assist train the second cohort, which is at present being recruited. “That is an enormous deal for me. It means they actually imagine in it,” Chanmugam stated. “And Johns Hopkins believes in it. It is inspiring to know our management is so dedicated to the group. I need to thank President [Ron] Daniels and our management for his or her help of the Innovation Fund.”
Highly effective performances
The initiative additionally included three efficiently produced performances in yr one. One cohort member was a visible artist extra so than a performer, utilizing drawings with highly effective phrases about his dependancy. On the ultimate avenue pageant efficiency, he had his personal showcase. One in every of his items was blown up right into a banner for his desk show, and he offered a couple of of his works.
Others shared their tales—their struggles and their triumphs—on stage.
“The viewers was in shock,” Patel stated. “The performances had been extremely shifting. They talked about dependancy, used music and dancing. We did not count on them to be so uncooked and open about their struggles. There have been plenty of tears, on stage and within the crowd.”
Fakunle stated you might see the performers’ power and energy once they advised their tales, and the way a lot better they felt about who they had been as human beings.
“They not outline themselves completely by their dependancy,” he stated. “They’re moms, father, sons, daughters, and mates. They’re human, and so they need the identical issues all of us need.”
To be acknowledged, appreciated, revered, understood, and beloved.