Facts 4 Life - Background

Dr. Hugh van’t Hoff explains the F4L approach to health education

Facts4Life has developed from my experience as a GP, realising that patients and I don’t share a language about health and illness. At the same time, I have been struck by people’s hunger for information and the questions they have about their conditions: where they originate, what processes are at work, who is ‘to blame’ and who has responsibility for making them better. I am also interested in how different people respond differently to the same illness.

Doctors understand general medical principles which allow them to navigate an immense amount of information and plot a route for recovery; without these principles, all you have is a mass of indigestible facts – reams of ‘googled’ A4 sheets. But these principles of health and illness are rarely shared with the general public.

Instead of simply telling people to make healthier choices – eat vegetables, exercise more, smoke less – we need to help people to understand why doing certain things tends to lead to better health. This includes knowing what is likely to happen if they choose not to. For example, we should be helping people to understand what a heart attack or stroke is, why people get them, what the implications are for those people and their families, and what can be done to avoid them.

It is as if we are driving around in cars (our bodies) without knowing how they work and how to maintain them. When we become ill – when our bodies ‘break down’ – we are lost with no highway code and no route map, and no understanding of how to get ‘home’. We are stranded and forced to transfer responsibility to others – the medical profession. What we need is practical knowledge about how to ‘drive’ our bodies more safely, not just a list of do’s and don’ts.

The answers to the ‘what, who, when, where and why’ of health and illness are the ‘facts for life’ that we all need and which should be available to all of us.

Hugh van't Hoff - F4L Director & Founder

Dr. Hugh van't Hoff

Director & Founder

Hugh has fused his interests in the arts, philosophy and medicine over many years.
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