April 23, 2019—Researchers, policy makers, and public health practitioners recently gathered at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Health to explore ways that happiness is promoted through evidence-based practice and policy across the globe.
The April 12, 2019 workshop, held in Kresge 110, was hosted by the School’s Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness. Participants came from countries including Bhutan, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Center has documented ways that different countries and communities are promoting policies and practices related to happiness. These include Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness project, which is built on a philosophy that collective happiness should be a goal of government, and smaller efforts like Vancouver, Canada’s community-building Hey Neighbor initiative.
“What we are discovering is that there is no one single policy or set of policies that are used worldwide to promote happiness,” said K. “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication, and co-director of the Center along with Professor Laura Kubzansky, in an interview after the event. The reason why, he said, is that the countries and communities that have taken up the challenge of promoting happiness tend to define and measure it differently. For example, some look at measures of personal satisfaction, and others choose to look at socioeconomic equity.
While Viswanath doubts that there could ever be strict agreement on how to define and measure happiness, he said that there do seem to be some areas of consensus: Improving education and reducing conflict and exclusion improve happiness, as does minimizing use of social media.
Viswanath said that the Center plans to continue having conversations around best practices, and ensuring that promoting health is at the forefront of happiness policies. He hopes that ultimately a platform can be developed to share evidence around the effectiveness of policies to promote happiness and provide tools to help develop them.
Photos: Kent Dayton