The recent unprecedented devastating Covid pandemic had many lessons for us. It showed us as the saying goes ‘Health is the greatest wealth’ we have and ‘a country is only as strong as its healthcare is’. Fortunately for us, both the citizens and the government have woken up to this and a slew of measures has been taken to make our nation healthy.
Another saying that I would like to emphasise is that ‘An ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure’. This cannot be overemphasised. We as a developing nation have been struck by both communicable diseases (infectious diseases) and non-communicable diseases (lifestyle diseases) and this combination is an unbearable burden for society. This is again best dealt with in public, preventive, primary and promotive health.
It is a matter of grave concern that even today one of the leading causes of death in children below the age of 5 is diarrhoeal diseases, other infections and malnutrition.
Robust public healthcare with attention to sanitation, clean drinking water, nutrition, vaccination and vector control measures (anti-mosquito and other pest control measures and clean disposal of garbage) can clearly save millions of lives at a fraction of the cost it will take to treat these diseases.
Fortunately, the government has taken many measures to improve sanitation, drinking water, aggressive vaccination, TB eradication and childhood nutrition measures to counter these risks.
It is unfortunate that lifestyle diseases which are very much under our individual control now account for more deaths than communicable diseases. We now have a huge burden of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, obesity, cancer and other NCDs in our country and unfortunately, we not only have a huge burden of these diseases but many of them affect us earlier than the western population. In these cases, prevention alone is the key to controlling the devastating consequences of these diseases.
Lifestyle issues have become the bane of our society and as a senior doctor, I have a few suggestions for the overall health of our society. The pandemic has certainly made matters worse as we are not focusing enough on our diet and exercise routine and this will certainly worsen the already emerging epidemic of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
The simple suggestion I have for our youngsters to remain healthy is to pay attention to the following S’s in your life. It is important that these lifestyle interventions happen very early in life. Sugar and calories in the form of carbohydrates are the bane of our society and are the root cause of many illnesses like diabetes and obesity. Sugar is the new tobacco of today.
Smoking and tobacco in any form is poison and should be avoided at all costs. Salt intake in excess of the normal can lead to hypertension and other related diseases. A sedentary lifestyle should be avoided. Do not be a couch potato, move around exercise and be active. A good night’s regular sleep is important for a healthy life.
Stress and especially distress is bad for one’s health. Take help from your friends, teachers, parents and other advisors if you get into a stressful state that you cannot handle. Sadness or depression and mental health issues are frequently unrecognised and untreated and it is something we have to be aware of and need to resolve before it becomes a serious problem. Seek help if you are undergoing any mental health issues and do not let the fear of stigma come in the way.
Alcohol is certainly a no-no for youngsters because of the potential toxic effects and the risk of addiction. Sex education is an important tool in one’s curriculum and should be emphasised both in schools and colleges for the right kind of overall physical and sexual health development. Social skills and interactions is another important facet in our overall development which has been seriously affected by excessive use of social media, phones, computers, video games etc and it is time for us to set this right for a healthier society.
Substance abuse is another menace of today that needs to be addressed. We should go all out to get rid of drugs from society, not just by punishment but also by creating awareness, counselling and rehabilitation measures.
It is a priority for us to keep ourselves, our society and the nation healthy. A robust public, preventive, primary healthcare system, awareness of lifestyle diseases and ample measures to modify lifestyles will go a long way in helping us be healthy. As we enter the new year let us take home this message: A healthy nation is a strong and happy nation. Let all of our work making this happen.
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