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How wide is the Goldilocks Zone in your healthcare system?

CaP researchers have participated in a large international study on healthcare seeking. In a recent publication they describe the challenges and ambivalences the public face, when deciding when or how to seek medical advice.

2018.08.20 | Dorthe Toftdahl Nielsen

Photo: Colourbox

In astrophysics, the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ describes the circumstellar habitable zone, in which planets, sufficiently similar to Earth, could support human life. The children’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, one of the most popular fairytales in the English language, uses this metaphor to describe conditions for life that are neither too hot nor too cold and neither too close to the sun nor too far from its warmth.

We propose that the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ also offers an apt metaphor for the struggle that people face when deciding if and when to consult a health care provider with a possible health problem. Drawing on decades of research in Denmark, England and Sweden on people’s accounts of their experiences of accessing health care, this essay considers the ambivalence of health care seeking that individuals face in identifying when it is ‘just right’ to consult a general practitioner and the steps that health systems and individual clinicians might take to widen the zone.

We conclude that not only the public should be educated in managing healthcare seeking, also health professionals have to learn to handle the uncertainty that is an inherent part of any clinical practice.


Research, Health and disease, Public/Media, CAP, CAP