Health workers can save the planet

Health workers can save the planet!!
Most of the public consider that health costs are a necessary financial drag on society and few health workers pause to consider their job as an economic driver or an invention which may be critical to the continuation of a way of life. Health as an economic driver in the format of labour markets, insurance and building new hospitals is quite obvious (imagine the unemployment if there were no health care jobs), but something deeper beckons if health workers are to be saviours of the planet…read on if you wish – it’s time for a slightly heavy noinotes!!

Waves of economic activity – meet Nikolai Kondratieff
It is quite obvious in society, especially capitalist societies, that economic activity and prosperity often go in waves – the 10-12 year waves are most obvious, though many people in Europe and America are looking anxiously for the next wave! Other waves of economic activity have been described. Nikolai Kondratieff (Russian of course) proposed 60 year cycles of economic activity focussing on a particular invention which has led to enhanced productivity. Note the six waves of inventions in figure 1. Note also that the invention which underpins the current 6th Kondratieff wave is suggested as health and in particular biotechnologies and psychosocial health. The 5th Kondratieff was information technology. While the impact of IT is still strong, it is dwindling, at least in the West, where most people have access to a computer. Although, various estimates suggest that only 10% of the world population have access to a computer.

Image adapted from
Health as economic driver?
Health as invention or economic driver may seem a bit odd. It is not really tangible like railways and steel which underpinned the 2nd Kondratieff wave. A good example of advances in biotechnologies includes the recent major steps towards a vaccine for malaria but it is the psychosocial health (perhaps it should be rephrased as biopsychosocial health) which is of interest here. Psychosocial health in regard to the 6th Kondratieff involves “attempts to better understand and tap into humans’ internal information processes, and the wide field of mental and social potentials” with the suggestion that future successful economies and companies will rely on the health of their people and the health of the public health system as a whole – spiritually, bodily, socially, ecologically and mentally. [1] Wow! All this suggests, supports and encourages a powerful information medicine.

You have to think a bit laterally here to grasp it. Those of us who were not born with computers had to think in a different more systematic way to manage computers, but we seemed to manage. It will require quite a shift (eg resources to appropriate education, fair distribution of societal wealth) to access the untouched reserve of human mental potential to restructure a health care system into one where repairing disease continues but the focus is on health. This “information medicine” must be powerful.

The 6th Kondratieff, information medicine and the power of biology
We believe that the information medicine underpinning the 6th Kondratieff will emerge mainly from neurobiology and in particular recent neuroimmune science. For example, here is a pathway of knowledge that has only been available in the last decade… We know that altered use and pain experienced in a body part will lead to changes in the representation of that part in the brain. We know that this is a neuroimmune event most likely related to the activation of groups of glial cells which are essentially immune organs. We know that the immune system is, as Mick Thacker states, is “a system which can identify self from non self”, i.e. it is a system that “knows who you are and will respond when you are not you”. Responses could be fighting infection or altering the way the body is in the brain. However “you are not you” is not only a state which exists with a disease or injury, it also exists when you are socially dislocated, feel meaningless, have pain that you don’t understand or don’t have the means (cognitive, knowledge, finances etc) to even begin self-management of a problem. You “may not be you” if you are in a society yet to deal with ageism, racism, sexism and every other “ism”. There must be neuroimmune effects leading to pain, disease and altered cognitions and emotions, all of which we now know that the immune system has a hand in [2].

Isn’t it a bit too capitalist?
My dear friend Mick Thacker, responsible for much of the neuroimmune mutterings above (and who now owns a stuffed badger) suggested a danger with the “health invention” falling into the hands of the capitalists, and he may be right. Growth theories don’t appeal to everyone and well-being is not necessarily related to economic productivity and dollars. Nikolai Kondratieff certainly fell out with the Trotskyites in Moscow and he ended his days cooling his heels in a Siberian labour camp. But notions of linking a person’s existing mental and spiritual powers to information medicine have great links to the health literacy movement, and you would hope that an awakening of these powers would limit misuse.

Some recent projects in Scotland have links to the 6th Kondratieff. (Scottish politics are usually left of the English) Here, the Chief Medical Officer [3] has launched an Assets Alliance for Scotland – health assets being any factor or resource which maintains the ability to sustain and maintain health and well-being. One of the greatest health assets is the still untapped productivity that we all have as part of our mental/spiritual/psychological makeup. Knowledge is the key to unlocking it and thus there are enormous links to the information medicine underpinning the 6th Kondratieff.

Will you come on the trip?
One way to contribute to and benefit from the 6th Kondratieff is to reduce our own knowledge gaps as biopsychosocial knowledge races away from standard practice. So I am pushing the NOI conference here, a proactive conference on neuroimmune backed biopsychosocialism which pushes health as an economic driver. Check out the list of remarkable plenary and invited speakers – perhaps the best ever list of speakers at an Australian Rehabilitation conference and the massive “what to do about it” list of workshops and lunchtime events. There is a deep underlying theme here of informed self-management, professional and personal empowerment, information medicine and the critical neurobiology, in particular the engagement of the brain, which we see a vital to health as a successful 6th Kondratieff. -David


Nefiodow, L.A.; Available from:
Fields, R.D., The Other Brain. 2009, New York: Simon and Schuster.
Burns, H.; Available from:

Last month’s notes on little fishing lines in the knee

Thanks again for writing in with some thoughts on how knowledge about the infra patellar branch of saphenous nerve plays its role in day to day healthcare.

Congratulations to VPS from India with your ‘twang’ like a guitar string, we will post you a copy of the NOI Neurodynamic Techniques DVD and Handbook. [4 minute preview]

Read some of our favourite comments here [pdf]

David Butler on biopsychosocialism [4 mins]
Assets Alliance Scotland
Videos by NOI
Recognise App (for hands)
NOI 2012 International Pain Change Conference


4 Responses to “Health workers can save the planet”

  1. Explain Pain 3, Day 1 | noijam Says:

    […] big picture, scene setting stuff. Kondratieff Waves have been written about before by Dave in a noinotes and provide a wonderful context to set the notions of healthcare, Explain Pain and health literacy […]

  2. #ExplainPain3 , día 1 | magmasalud Says:

    […] general, contextualizando. Las Ondas de Kondratiev, de las que Dave ya habló hace tiempo en noinotes, son un punto de partida ideal para hablar de sistemas de salud y pedagogía en biología del dolor […]

  3. guitar strings vibrating Says:

    Music is also medically proven to be healthy!

  4. Morristown Dental Says:

    Morristown Dental

    Health workers can save the planet | NOI Notes

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