(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 21, The Health Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine.)

What do we talk about when we talk about health?

Most of the ways that we talk about health have to do with our bodies. But the true meaning of health runs both much deeper and broader than that. Systems of health operate on every level; from the cellular to the personal, relational, familial, community and state level. And, what’s most interesting about these systems of health is how they function and rely on one another. It’s hard to maintain mental health when we are not living in a healthy nation state. It is hard to build healthy communities when we don’t have healthy relationships. When health on one level is compromised, health on every level is compromised. The fragility of it all is both terrifying and amazing.

Health is complicated. There is a lot to think about when we just want to feel better. We may start with ourselves, but accountability usually needs to happen on many levels: we need to be able to count on our families and friends to support and take care of us, we need to be able to rely on the state to provide us with access to equitable health care, we need to feel empowered to take care of ourselves and the people and communities around us.

That empowerment starts with knowledge of our own bodies and the systems that affect it. What resources are available to us? What services are being denied? We need to know what we have to appreciate it and what we still need to demand and advocate for.

That’s what we hope to accomplish with this issue of Shameless, our health issue. In it, we talk about health on personal, societal and state levels as health relates to mental health (p. 18), disability and the media (p. 28) and reproductive justice (p. 24). We give you a breakdown of your rights in your own medical decisions (p. 13), talk about environmental toxins in your makeup (p. 16) and give you a how-to on self-care (p. 33). We hope that with this knowledge, you will feel empowered to take ownership of your own health, to ask questions, make demands, and think critically of what we talk about when we talk about health. We hope that this will allow you to take care of yourselves, and, in turn, us all.

Yours shamelessly, 

AuthorSheila Sampath