Positive Health, the main topic of this year’s congress, is HOT in the Netherlands. This opens opportunities for shiatsu practitioners, as indeed, there are many correlations with the holistic, TCM vision of health.

Text: Caroline van Oost | Translation: Adeline Kuiken | Photo: Skitterphoto

Positive health is becoming part of the agenda at an increasing number of healthcare institutions in the Netherlands. Several Dutch municipalities are treating this as a pre-condition for organizations to be eligible for municipal subsidies. More and more GPs are also getting enthusiastic. And that is not without reason. They see by experience: when talking to the patient from the perspective of Positive Health, they refer fewer patients to specialist care. It means that it has a preventive effect, just like shiatsu.

What is Positive Health?

Positive health is a wider perspective on health through six dimensions, which affect someone’s well-being.
These dimensions are body functions, mental health, meaningfulness, quality of life, participation and daily functioning.
The deeper meaning here is that people are not just their condition, but the environment which impacted their health through all these dimensions.
However, in conventional medicine, the attention is paid mostly to the complaints and health problems and the way these can be addressed.
Positive Health provides the other perspective, where the focus is not on the sickness, but on the people themselves, their adaptability and what makes their life meaningful.

Other perspectives

The institute of Positive Health (IPH) trains professionals to take a different approach to the conversations with people (clients).
To support this, a questionnaire has been developed, where people can indicate, by dimension, how satisfied or unsatisfied they are, and on which aspect they prefer to work on.
This ignites completely different conversations when a caregiver is enquiring about complaints.  
This is what one coach says about his experience with filling in the spider web with a client.

The client scored low on mental health but indicated a preference to work on meaningfulness.
This was a contradiction to the expectations of the coach, who thought that they were going to work on the mental health. However, working on meaningfulness, all the other five dimensions slightly changed.

For shiatsu practitioners know, everything is interdependent.

Common ground

Positive Health is adopted by more and more organizations and is not only client oriented. 
It is also used as a HR tool to promote the well-being of the employees and as a connector between different disciplines and policies.
That’s why the common ground should be adopted.  

How can shiatsu contribute?

Tremendously.
As shiatsu practitioners, we know, as no one else, how different internal and external factors can influence the health condition of a person. Isn’t it fantastic news that more and more attention is being paid to holistic health within the conventional medicine? This is where we see opportunities for integration of both conventional and alternative medicine.

Joint effort

It is, therefore, time to follow these developments in joint effort, to continue working on setting the common ground. Now, shiatsu is no longer a small alternative brother (or sister), but is an equal partner.

I am looking forward to connect with colleagues representing conventional and alternative medicine during the European Shiatsu Congress to explore the possibilities of further integration.

Everyone will benefit from this.


Caroline van Oost owns a private practice in Tilburg and at the same time is working as a project manager at GGD West-Brabant (Municipal healthcare institution). One of her interest areas is Positive Health.   

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