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Where does responsibility lie in deciding what 'being well' is at the population level? This panel invites anthropological papers which explore the complexities of defining human health beyond the local.
Cultural concepts of wellbeing have long been studied within anthropology. However, in the last decade, there has been a global shift to recognise the importance of people-centred measures of wellbeing at the population level, driven by political desire to move beyond the use of economic statistics as the sole basis of policy change. In 2019 New Zealand was the first country to announce that it will begin to measure its success as a nation on the basis of the wellbeing of its citizens, rather than GDP growth rate. The World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries according to the perceived happiness of their citizens and has gained significant media coverage since its inception in 2012. Wellness, defined as a state of holistic health, is a big business that has seen exponential growth over the last few years and is currently estimated to be worth $4.2 trillion globally. Medical anthropologists are adept at analysing and critiquing the biomedical roots and definitions of health, disease, and wellbeing practiced in situ. However, as the science, measurement, and management of 'being well' moves beyond the local and into the global, one must ask: Whose definitions of 'being well' are really being taken into account? And where does the responsibility lie for your/my/our/all health in a world where 'being well' is the newest form of privilege, luxury, or commodity?