What Is Health?


Marking The World Health Day, April 7, this is an extract from a book by PROF. B. M. HEGDE , HEALTHY INDIA 2020.

Health is not the mere absence of physical illness. Health is the overall wellbeing of an individual that takes into account his/her physical, mental, spiritual, societal aspects of life into consideration. With this broad definition of health, most of what happens to society or a nation depends on individuals being healthy.

Even the present malady of terrorism is due to loss of a balanced view of life. The whole problem could be solved if one could try and understand the terrorist’s motivation and try to modify that with psychotherapy. It is also connected to the economic health of the individual as most terrorists come from the poor socio-economic background. Even the few that come from the affluent society do so because of abnormal psychological reaction to the goings on in society-oppression, suppression and denial.

Individual health is related to social health and vice versa.

Scientific studies have shown that any kind of dependence leads to psychological problems-even religious fanaticism could lead to personal and societal ill health. This is precisely the reason why it is important to have a healthy nation for all rounded development at any time.

Mere economic development would be counter-productive, as we have seen in the industrialized countries in the last century. While they have physical comforts and easy access to all the material wealth, they are not healthy nations what with all social ills damaging the moral fabric of the nation.

The rich exploiting the poor is a daily affair in their idea of development! Making money has become their religion and money is their God.

Affluent nations have been destroying the entire God-given resources of this world with their greed and proclivity for comfort.

They would, one day, have to realize that money can not be used to buy happiness as also that money can not be used as a substitute for food. Healthy nation is a happy nation; consequently, a happy nation would be healthy.

Every creature in nature is built to last as long as it is supposed to last. Nothing could be immortal in nature. The human system is very robust and can withstand most of the day-to-day insults using the immune system and the autonomic nervous system. This was needed when man was a hunter-gatherer in the forests where the only cause of death used to be predation, in addition to old age. Man has existed on this planet for well over 9, 00, 000 years in fifty thousand generations. Without the above mentioned built-in repair mechanisms mankind should have been extinct millions of years ago like the dinosaurs. This simple truth tells us that man could live happily as long as he lasts.

However, modernity has made man’s environment much more dangerous for man to live compared to the forest life of yore.

The present social and environmental degradation is such that the inbuilt repair mechanisms are stretched to their limits every day.

To cap it we have created for ourselves the monsters like junk food, fancy beverages, tobacco products in deadly form and the much touted alcohol that is being sold as a health tonic by the market economy. All these put together bring on illnesses despite the fact that the repair mechanism tries its best to keep diseases at bay.

Over-crowding, because of high birth rate and acculturation to larger cities for economic reasons, has helped our friendly germs to become deadly and invade us.

Industrialization has added to the burden by polluting all our water sources and the air we breathe.

Agriculture, by uprooting the soil, has forced the innocent soil germs like the TB germs to get air borne and become violent. Domesticating animals for farm labour as also for milk etc. has brought in its wake the curse of communicable diseases.

Most communicable diseases have come to us from animals-common cold from the dog and SARS from the monkey. Overcrowding helps the germ to be more powerful in defeating our immune system.

Pollution levels in some of our larger cities have reached such dangerous levels where children below five can not even survive. Thank God, our villages still have very clean atmosphere.

The solution to all these is to make the village economically more attractive to reverse the acculturation process from the cities that are bursting at the seams. One would now realize how important it is to understand holistic village development as the be all and end all of a healthy nation. Overall development of the village would lead to better agriculture and more food helping the starving millions to regain their health and happiness. Innovative cheap technologies would help make life of a villager better than of a town dweller.

 Electricity from solar power, waterless latrines to avoid hookworms, clean water supply which gets filtered through novel filters using simple local waste products like burnt bricks to filter deadly arsenic in deep well water, cooking gas from manure would avoid millions of cancer and pneumonia deaths due to cooking smoke coming from dry leaves and twigs, would make life enjoyable in the village.

Good village roads with efficient rural public transport system should allow villagers to commute to nearby towns for better jobs. Making the village self governing would hit two birds with one stone. While it makes the villagers totally self dependent, it would take away large number of government jobs in larger cities lessening the population burden there.

Adult education in the village would help improve their health status. Educated people are comparatively healthier as they are able to access health tips from others as also to follow them. Good schools in villages would encourage girls to be busy with studies to postpone early marriage bringing down the birth rate.

Village schools should also have the primary health centre associated with them in the same campus. The school could be the nucleus of spreading health message, immunization, and hygiene advice as also to get the adults educated about these matters through their wards. Village school teachers must double as health workers. Village schools should have the best brains as teachers.

Eighty per cent of the population is still in the villages and village is the place where healthy India should have its foundation. I would even go to the extent of saying that the best boys and girls should be chosen for primary school teaching and the latter included as a central service IES having the same pay and perks of other central services.

If the primary education is of the best variety this country would be the leader in the world. It is at the primary level that one prepares the future good citizens.

The primary teachers could be given regular training in health care (not medical care) with health education as a major subject for children between 5-15 years of age with the village as the laboratory where the young teachers and their students could innovate research methods in health care. We could have roughly the following special programme for school children, aarogydarshana.

(Professor Dr BM Hegde 82-year-old doctor, cardiologist, has been conferred this 2021 Republic Day, with the Padma Vibhushan for his contributions to the field of medicine. Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, he is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes. The doctor who questions many conventional  ideas of medicine, and fights commercialized medicine, published over 289 research papers both in India and abroad. He is also a prolific author with 35 books in both English and Kannada on medicine to his credit, including  What Doctors Don’t Get to Study in Medical School.       ( Anshan. 2006. pp. 275 pages. ISBN 978-1-904798-84-2. )

Dr Hegde was the Emeritus International Advisor to The Royal College of Physicians of London and Edinburgh and also the first Indian examiner for the MRCP examination in the UK for 10 years.  He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London.

Countercurrents featured some articles by the author.)




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