Public Health Blues
As per the old adage “Health is Wealth”, there is no doubt that healthy individuals are more successful in all walks of life. A body that is already struggling with psychological or physiological stress cannot be expected to perform in the maximum capacity. It is therefore crucial to keep health in its best state and take all necessary measures regarding it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes health as “state of physical, spiritual and mental well being, not merely an abdence of disease”. Keeping this view in mind, more than half of the world will be expected to be ill, mainly due to psychological reasons due to ever increasing tensions and issues prevailing in every nook and corner of the world.
World being a very large topic, let us keep our discussion limited to our homeland Pakistan. Without a moment of delay, one can speculate the health condition of Pakistanis. Unstable socioeconomic conditions, lack of hygiene, pollution, prevailing fear of safety, high inflation, deteriorating economy; all make a person more prone to numerous “diseases”. Even though great efforts have been made to overcome all these issues, the results achieved are not satisfactory. In this regard, it is necessary to consider that urban and rural lives face different challenges in promotion of health and hence require different approaches.
Let us talk about urban life first. In spite of all the luxuries that the urban life offers and the better medical facilities present here, one comes across many “unhealthy” individuals, suffering from both mental and physical illness. Physical illness apparently stems from increasing sedentary life style (not of whole urban population), toxic smoke and particles in the air, lack of hygiene, never ending pollution, consumption of high cholesterol containing foods, etc. The main challenge in promoting health in such an environment is definitely the fast paced life here.
Industrialization, though beneficial, generates pollutants but we cannot stop it and the measures taken to counter its effects are not equal in magnitude. With busy schedule, people find it easier to get domestic help and indulge in quickly made foods, most of which are either fried ones or contain high calories otherwise. A number of food outlets opening all over the cities also give it a leg up. And after all those inventions that have made our life a piece of cake – like computer, indoor games, home appliances, vehicles, etc.- one finds himself/herself lounging in leisure time – a fact that has established sedentary life style. Mental health suffers due to rising inflation and insecure city conditions on and off, due to which people, especially those belonging to middle or lower socioeconomic class are under tremendous stress, both social and economical. These obstacles cannot be so easily removed as people are not only used to them, but they also provide entertainment and happiness to these people.
Rural life, on the other hand, poses a different setup. People are hard working, sense of insecurity and inflation are lesser , diet is comparatively pure and the air is fresh. But there is lack of education and hygiene which are the primary elements that challenge public health. Most of the people have inadequate living conditions and many do not get boiled or filtered water. Children are found playing in fields; animal feces are carelessly strewn, etc. The vaccinations of humans are not satisfactory, let alone of animals. An important dilemma is the closed and somewhat conservative life of these people.
They refuse to let go of the practices they saw their ancestors doing and do not see above the line. The highly insanitary conditions also play a role. Due to decreased development and already poor sanitary conditions of rural areas, there is not so much work up here to promote health. Health professionals are reluctant to work here and people also divert back to their old practices once there is no one instructing them what to do. Language is a very big obstacle in rural areas and lack of proper co—ordination and conversation make most of the efforts go vain.
Nowadays many organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are promoting health in both rural and urban areas, but the prevailing challenges make it a very tough job. There is a need to understand the different way of living and mindsets of these two very opposite lifestyles and to know their problems. Long term measures should be taken to properly incorporate the changes in these people. It is hoped that by overcoming these challenges, public health will be promoted in a better way and people will also benefit from them.
About the Author : Sehrish Khan is a medical student at Dow Medical College, Karachi, Pakistan with interest is in the field of cardiac surgery. She is also a Senior Director of Administration and Planning, Patients’ Welfare Association and also working for Pakistan Medical Students’ Research Society as Manager Publicity and Promotion. She can be reached at : [email protected]
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