Add life to years, not years to life

‘Add life to years, not years to life’ says WHO India on the occasion of World Health Day 2012, today.

For a suffering person, a doctor appears like an angel with a magic wand. The instant relief that we sometimes get with medicine or surgery makes an aura hover above the head of the doctor. No doubt, a doctor’s job is noble.

A large number of students in their school-days dream of becoming doctors. Many parents vow to make their children doctors – at least one of them if they have more than one child. In common entrance tests, top rankers choose medical studies. Getting admission in medical colleges is highly competitive in any country. All India Pre Medical Entrance Examination is the most competitive test in India, where about 2,00,000 students compete for about 2,000 MBBS seats. Most of the doctors want to pursue higher studies after graduation. Doctors pursue formal and informal studies for more years compared with other professionals. Medical studies are expensive, very expensive. This is at the high-end of Ed Biz.

It is very heartening that our society respects doctors. While there is a strong attraction to pursue medical studies, do we have matching interest in health education? Unluckily, most people consider health as absence of disease and a health-care professional’s job as to cure a disease after it strikes. A doctor who advises healthy life-style may not pull crowds.

WHO defines: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

As educators and parents we have an important role to play in giving young people the necessary tools to improve their health. If we can teach children the importance of personal and environmental hygiene, significance of healthy eating, and importance of regular exercise, we would make a difference. Children who are aware and committed can influence their families and the families form society. Education can have a positive impact on society’s health.

More importantly, we have to accept that our health is our responsibility. It is not something that we can outsource to parents at young age and to doctors when we become adults. The responsibility is not just to cover with health insurance and then indulge in a life-style inviting diseases.

While there is glamour about doctors, how much do we care about health itself? How much do the doctors and hospitals care about health as against fighting diseases? The entire staffs in clinics and hospitals like to see a patient struggling in, and not a healthy person strolling in. Hospitals and clinics do very little to educate people about healthy habits and about preventing diseases.

Doctors know that washing hands and sterilising instruments before conducting a surgery are more important than the skills of surgeon with his knife. They do take care of these points. Washing hands before eating a meal is more important than the nourishment. Who cares about it? WHO? Can’t we? There are scores of such simple life-style practices that can keep us healthy.

 Health Seeker

A common task in the department of Periodontics in dental colleges is to de-scale teeth, which is a procedure to remove plaque, calculus and strain from surfaces of teeth. Doctors advice scaling once in six months. When you visit a dentist for [de]scaling your teeth, the dentist will call you a ‘patient.’ Are you? You might as well be a patient to brush your teeth twice a day.

When we go for any clinical test or medical check-up, we are asked “what is the patient’s name?” How is one a patient if he or she has no ailment? Wikipedia states:

The word patient originally meant ‘one who suffers.’ This English noun comes from the Latin word patiens, the present participle of the deponent verb, patior, meaning ‘I am suffering’

Sanskrit word for student, vidyarthi, has a deep meaning – seeker of education. It is a profound word. We do not call KG children illiterate, primary school children ignorant, high school students under-educated and so on. Learning is for life and we are students for life. Health for life, for every moment we breathe. Sickness is not a trophy to seek sympathy. In most cases it is a shame that we create our own misery and depend on others help to overcome the situation.

Many doctors like to see the visitors to their clinics as patients and not as healthy people. Wearing doctors’ glasses, every visitor appears a sick person. They are ‘clients.’

Some doctors unknowingly nurture patient mindset in their visitors. A doctor tells her patient “your tumour is 90% not cancerous. However, we would know the results after biopsy, which would take about a week. Do not worry till the results come. By the way, do you have a family history of …” Does the doctor really not want the person not to worry? Is her focus on health or disease? Should the doctors limit themselves only about physical health?

Let us, on this World Health Day, refuse to be patients. Let us be health-seekers, like the students are knowledge-seekers. Then alone health care will become a way of life than a business for clinics, hospitals, pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, and some sooth-Sayers.

Tail Piece:

SVYM shines as a shining example of people who care about health by caring about people.


About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
This entry was posted in Education, Everyday Life, Language, Social Issue. Bookmark the permalink.

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