June 16, 2013

Before youth leaves us -- let’s invest in good health!

Health is about not getting sick -- not about getting sick. We all know by now the rising cost of health care around the world and Maldives is not out of this cycle of medicalization of health care. The WTO's Global Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) bears witness to the rising tide of health care providers moving across national boundaries. All this, together with the portability of medical insurance will ensure that the medical industry survives and grows from day to day. While this has overt benefits, it has its downside too. It would be good to have quality medical care on a competitive footing, but this diversion of national health service approach from disease prevention to treatment leaves the public helpless to help themselves about keeping healthy. In this new business environment, medical service providers soon flock to the private sector at the expense of the public provider space. Health care insurance that has seemingly come to fill this gap of access escalates the cost of care to exponential limits. All this is quite apparent in our own little nation of Maldives also.
This has implications for our future health care. As we may be aware again we are in the midst of an epidemiological transition. Our communicable diseases, in our past colossal efforts of public health based on prevention has put these disease into the closet of the past – tuberculosis, leprosy, filariasis and malaria -- which were the dreaded killers of those days gone by, have given way to another transition -- that of non-communicable diseases. How many of our young people are truly aware of the dangers to their health of smoking, eating all that fatty fried foods, those succulent yet killer sausages, all those preservatives in the packaged foods and even the mere volume of food consumed with little concern for how much stress we are putting our poor body through.
If we think that our affluence is making this happen to us, it’s not quite true; it’s really the globalization frenzy the world is going through. For example, in Maldives it’s not just the rich that develop heart-disease, cancers, diabetes, hypertension and the rest of this smorgasbord of disease conditions. There seems to be a pervasive prevalence. The packaging market has made possible the long keeping quality of foods such that every corner of the country can have these “goodies”. Yes, it’s those thirst enhancing sugary and fizzy drinks that are found all over Maldives, so are the potato-chips, the packaged cakes and chocolates that look so good but at which our bodies wince as if to say "how can I tolerate this onslaught any longer; I might as well just give up and say goodbye to this world". The body’s pleadings and groaning is of course not heard by the youth, the owner of the young resilient body in its relentless search for the fun and frolic of life and is mesmerised by the clever goading of the marketing industry. We keep on guzzling the energy drinks even when we don't need the energy - prodded by the enticing adverts, and like so keep choking our lungs as we lull at the street corner to smoke yet another Lucky Strike, Camel, or Marlboro, as if this doing will clothe that body in importance and be the centre of attraction. Then as the body gets older the breakdown of its organs inevitably begin, slipping from sight would then be the days of the good looks and the pretty girls who seemed at arm’s reach. Now with wife and children and grandchildren we begin to suffer the effects of those carelessly lived robust days. The fool at the other end of the white long cylindrical object that is called the cigarette can no longer yearn for when it should not have been. It would be just too late!
But who will listen to this plea? The vice, voice and visuals of the tobacco company drown my lone voice for conscience or the persuasive power of the small silent message at the street corner "no smoking in these premises".

And so goes life, our cost of health care from this and others rising incrementally or even exponentially. How can we halt this rise -- in our ill health and the stress on our pocket books?  The solution is prevention! That we can do without expensive gyms and costly diets. Just good clean life habits are all what we need. Eating and drinking wisely, spending time on our feet more often, filling our lungs with that God given servings of fresh air rather than be choked by that chemical laden smoke from the cigarette, and spending more time in communing with nature rather than those endless hours of chatter on our mobile phones. But who will listen? For those who would listen, it is the path to happiness and a long life of joy away from the portals of the hospital. We can do it, if we truly have that intension.

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