By Dr. Arun Mitra
Since the year 1950 the 7th of April is observed as world health day all over the world. The decision to observe this day was taken by the world health assembly in 1948 at Geneva. It is an important day to highlight the plight of people’s health and thence plan strategy to take steps to ameliorate the related problems. The objective is to increase public awareness of various causes and prevention of different diseases and also to provide knowledge how to prevent their complications. It is important to impart knowledge to the people about how to take self-care. It is also time to ask governments to provide healthy environment.
It is a matter of concern that health still remains a pipe dream for large number of population. In 2017 nearly 50% of the global population did not have access to quality essential services to protect and promote health. Around 800 million people were spending 10% of their house hold budget on out of pocket health expenses. As a result 100 million people were being pushed into extreme poverty. Situation in the poor countries is more pathetic.
In our country despite advances in healthcare there persist gross inequalities in access to it. The low socio economic groups have difficulty in getting modern healthcare. Inequalities persist in terms of geography, caste, religion and gender as well. Rising cost of health care adds to these inequalities. Out-of-pocket expenditure by the patient constitutes 63% of Total Health Expenditure. The share of Out of Pocket Expenditure on health care as a proportion of total household monthly per capita expenditure is 6.9% in rural areas and 5.5% in urban areas.
The communicable diseases have been the major cause of illness in our country. Many of these can be prevented by simple measures through health awareness in the public. The air borne diseases like the influenza can be prevented if the persons take precautions like covering their face with mask and to maintain distance from the patient. Tuberculosis is another illness which can be prevented by avoiding contact with the patient. Many vector borne diseases can be prevented by taking care of the vector. Dengue, Chikungunya and Malaria can be prevented by avoiding the mosquito bite and checking reproduction of mosquitoes.
For this people have to be encouraged to remove stagnant water from the area, to use mosquito nets and mosquito repellents. Many water borne diseases like the jaundice and other abdominal infections can be prevented by using clean drinking water and boiled water. Simple measures like washing hands before eating, washing vegetables in running water, not to eat uncovered food products, to avoid preserved food, to do exercise regularly, to take balanced diet can prevent many diseases.
Since the non-communicable diseases are increasing in the society, there is need to inculcate basic knowledge about their prevention. Senior citizens and children who are more prone to be taken ill need more attention through awareness among their families. There is also need to give knowledge about the methods of waste management. Such above said measures do not incur huge cost. What is needed is change in habits, life style and some medical tips.
It is also important to rid the society of myths about diseases particularly in the low socio economic and less literate section of the society. Even today large number of our population is swayed away by myths. They visit the faith healers in the pursuit of better health. Some of the common diseases they look for remedy from such faith healers are Mumps, Chicken Pox, Bell’s Palsy, epilepsy, sexual problems, infertility etc. Many a times such beliefs cause delay in treatment and worsening of illness. Preaching to produce ‘customised babies through garbh vigyan sanskar’ by the “Arogya Bharti” is pushing the society to medieval times. But when such practices are patronized by those at the helms of power it is a very serious issue. Not too long back two ministers of the Gujarat government felicitated the ‘tantriks’ in one of their conferences.
Unfortunately health care is not a major issue in the public discourse. There is need to make debate on healthcare a day-to-day agenda of the public. The medical organizations have to play vital role for this. Medical professionals along with Anganwadi & Asha workers and local level social activists have to come forward. Health committees should be formed at the Mohalla and the Village level which should discuss the health concerns of the area as well as policy matters pertaining to health in general. Written information through pamphlets, group meetings and interactive sessions can pay real long term dividend. (IPA Service)