Health is a broad topic as such and here, I do not intend to provide text book definitions. Because, with the definitions, it is easy to score marks in the exams, but it only becomes meaningful when it is understood and applied in our daily lives. Not surprisingly, even doctors ignore their health and well-being and have suffered. So, the usual saying goes, “Are we not human-beings?” It is utterly true. Yes, we as doctors too suffer from physical and mental health issues and from my own experience, I feel that our near and dear ones never feel like caring for us or advising us on health issues just because we are doctors and we can take care of ourselves.
I also remember one proverb now – “To err is human”. So it is natural and ok to be human and not be like machines. When it comes to the issue of health, the trick is to attain that subtle balance! Everything starts in the mother’s womb itself. Some of the conditions of ill- health are unavoidable if genetically attained, as the wrong genes are incorporated in each and every cell of our bodies. But most illnesses are acquired from our surrounding environment, and many other factors which is why we say health is determined by multiple factors.
A child born in a rich family is considered lucky because he is able to access most of the comforts as also health care more easily than the one born in a poor family. Moreover, ignorance is such a bliss that the poor are often less educated and don’t even know or think about how a disease is caused or what the complications or outcome could be. Infections, also called communicable diseases are so common in them because of poor habits and living conditions and they are almost ready for any consequence, blaming their ill fates most of the time. Moreover, with newer diseases like the present Covid-19, it has become impossible to say that the richer are exempted from infectious diseases. Every species tries to thrive and in the process, learns slowly to adapt and change itself to become more virulent to attack the other species for its growth and survival.
With time, everything changes. The high standards of living also has its own pros and cons.The richer and sedentary people started suffering from other set of diseases now known as the non communicable or chronic disease conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases etc. As time evolved, and with globalization and internet speeding up spreading its nets into each and every corner of the world, it has become very easy for urbanizing the rural habits! So nowadays it is no more a surprise to detect the non communicable diseases even in the poor.
More research is needed to understand the whole complex mechanism of disease causation. Most of the time, it is multifactorial and the effects are enhanced by the presence of multiple risk factors. Risk factors are the ones that when associated are known to increase the causation of a particular disease. For example, smoking is a risk factor for the causation of heart attack.
We can also find many people who have one or the other illness time and again but when asked, they say they are healthy. So that is the subjective feeling. On the other hand, with no detectable or clinically discernible ill health, some people always feel that they are ill. Inevitably, they go doctor shopping and without their own knowledge, frequent visits to health centres becomes a part of their lives. When a patient says he has headache, the doctor has to believe he has headache and even if a machine can detect lies, it is not at all ethical to doubt a patient.
We go ahead with treating the symptom and also further examination and lab tests to detect and diagnose any hidden illness. Once a patient, he/ she need not be so the whole life. The silver lining is that with scientific advancements, many of the diseases are either curable or controllable. In every country, with overall improvement in the socio-economic conditions, there has been an increase in the life expectancy of its people.
With an increasing percentage of educated people, there is a need for integrated and concerted efforts to dispel many myths associated with health and ill – health, to identify the disease condition in its earlier stages, timely and regular treatment to control the diseases and prevent the complications. This will definitely help in preventing the disease progression and improving the quality of life.
Self care is the most important in being healthy, as the individual’s own habits determine his/her present and future ill-health. Rather than blaming the health officials or the government for many avoidable or unavoidable flaws, it is time for the people themselves to decide whether they want to live healthy or not. For example, if there was nothing like alcohol ever invented, many lives and families would not have suffered of it’s grave consequences. But, if not alcohol, it would have been something else! The need of the hour is our own decision. To be responsible for our own actions and change the habits by changing our perspectives. I will not say that then there will be no need for health care system or doctors, because, as I said earlier, there are many more disease conditions that are inevitable and need to be treated. Most of the preventable conditions are in our own hands.