How does compassion alleviate suffering and promote flourishing in healthcare settings?
One of the greatest challenges to human flourishing is our limited understanding of what flourishing means and how humans can flourish in the midst of suffering. Spiritual and religious traditions maintain that flourishing is possible even in the presence of suffering. This aspect of flourishing has received limited attention from scientific research.
What is FACE’s Human Flourishing Project?
In 2020, the Templeton World Charity Foundation announced a bold, new commitment to support research on human flourishing. Together with a consortium of partners, the Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics (FACE) at The Task Force for Global Health was one of 11 inaugural awardees. Work on the exploratory research project, “Towards a transdisciplinary approach to transforming global health systems – Advancing human flourishing in the midst of suffering,” began in 2022.
The project involved three initiatives: 1) the development of fundamental concepts and frameworks, 2) the development of metrics and methods for the research, and 3) the grounding of our conceptual frameworks and metrics in specific, real-world contexts. It is through the third initiative that our Compassionate Care Storytelling Series came to fruition.
What is the Compassionate Care Storytelling Series?
Published in two parts, the Compassionate Care Storytelling Series shares learnings from exemplars in global health to promote human flourishing. We sought out stories from various types of health service delivery organizations in different parts of the world, from varying cultural backgrounds, and rooted in diverse faith traditions. The stories, told in vignettes, include experiences delivering compassionate healthcare in Uganda, Israel, India, Bangladesh, and the United States.
We wanted to learn how healthcare organizations in different countries embody compassion and human flourishing in the face of suffering. To do this, our consortium of partners—Harvard University Human Flourishing Program, the World Health Organization, the University of Calgary Compassion Research Lab, Leapfrog to Value, and Emory University—connected us with staff at seven organizations that they had seen truly embody compassionate care. Our team conducted a series of interviews with these staff members and published their stories and the insights they shared in the two-part series.
What have we learned about compassion and human flourishing?
The storytelling series offers insights into how compassion arises in each of these organizations. Interviews with each of these organizations revealed that they are living out deeply ingrained personal values of service to their community members, alleviating suffering, and enabling human flourishing.
The field of global health has much to learn about compassionate care when we humbly listen to the voices of community-focused healthcare providers around the world. Their stories of compassion-driven care can help us reimagine what is possible for the field of global health.
Access more resources on compassion and human flourishing:
- The Compassion Measures Toolbox
- The Compassion Research Lab at the University of Calgary, in partnership with FACE, developed an online toolbox for choosing the best measures to assess compassion across the healthcare system
- WHO Learning Brief: Compassion & National Health Quality Plan Strategies & Policies
- Which countries are committed to compassionate healthcare? Articulation of compassion in national quality policies and strategies (NQPS) documents can highlight a commitment to compassionate health care and to mobilizing resources and programs that support compassion as a cornerstone of national health care systems.
- Editorial: Flourishing in Adversity: The Crucial Role of Compassion in Healthcare Settings
- Compassion is the authentic response of love to suffering. How can we harness its power to promote flourishing for healthcare staff, patients, and systems?
- Editorial: Can Humanity Flourish When Surrounded by Suffering?
- The global COVID-19 pandemic has shattered conceptions of what is normal. Yet compassion can still help people to flourish even under the most trying of circumstances.
- Podcast: Compassion in Healthcare & Flourishing with Dr. David Addiss
- In this episode of Stories of Impact, Dr. David Addiss reflects on his career and shares what inspired him to spend it working to control and eliminate diseases that affect underserved and neglected people.
- Report: Understanding Flourishing: Developing a Global Community of Practice
- Published by the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion, this report shares lessons learned from a Templeton World Charity Foundation Workshop, “Cross-Cultural Measurement of Flourishing Across Disciplines,” held in 2022. FACE staff contributed to the section on global health.