HEATLH

A wake-up call: Prevention is better than cure

In Summary
  • Too often we hear the words “too late” or “if only we had detected this sooner” in heart, diabetes, liver or cancer cases
  • Preventive medicine and regular health screenings can change that
Eating a vegetarian diet isn't always healthy and some may increase the risk of heart disease.
A vegetarian dish Eating a vegetarian diet isn't always healthy and some may increase the risk of heart disease.
Image: COURTESY

The Covid-19 pandemic has made us realise the importance of taking care of our health daily. Numerous measures have been taken to reduce virus transmission. In the case of infectious pandemics such as this, prevention is always better than cure.

An assessment by WHO in May last year found that the rapid spread of Covid-19 across the world, has impacted the ability of countries to address and respond to noncommunicable diseases.

The virus has caused broad disruptions to health services while drawing attention to countries’ NCD burden, as those living with NCDs are at increased risk of becoming severely ill with the virus.

Before Covid-19, the world was already off track on achieving many SDG targets, including reducing premature mortality from NCDs. The pandemic has made the achievement of the SDGs even more challenging and has exposed the effects of insufficient progress in tackling NCDs and their risk factors.

NCDs, notably cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, are the leading causes of death and disability globally, affecting more people each year than all other causes combined.

NCDs are responsible for more than 70 per cent of all deaths, with nearly 80 per cent of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries, where Covid-19 is most impacting health services.

Many of these diseases and disorders are related to lifestyle factors and changes in behaviour and attitudes in areas such as diet, nutrition, exercise, smoking, and alcohol abuse. These chronic diseases are either largely preventable or fairly easily managed if patients and the general public prioritise preventive care and work closely with their healthcare providers.

I grew up listening to my mother say “prevention is better than cure.” This phrase makes more sense when talked about in terms of our health. If we can prevent a health condition, it is way better than going through the pain and suffering that comes with trying to cure it. Have we ever given this time-honoured phrase an adequate amount of thought?

Young people work out in a gym
Young people work out in a gym
Image: FILE

Nurture, encourage and motivate your family, friends and loved ones – that regular health screening, vaccinations and working with your medical provider are essential to good health.

As a public communication specialist, waiting until people get really sick and need costly interventions seems wasteful; as a citizen, it is frightening. In fact, preventing future illnesses and preventing complications from existing conditions are vital to the future sustainability of health systems.

This would not only improve the quality of life for individuals, their families and society as a whole but would reduce pressure on health facilities and health spending.

The first thing to focus on when it comes to preventing disease is to make sure you’re as healthy as possible.

For those serious about health, I cannot overemphasise the importance of health screening besides healthy lifestyle choices. Nurture, encourage and motivate your family, friends and loved ones – that regular health screening, vaccinations and working with your medical provider are essential to good health.

Too often we hear the words “too late” or “if only we had detected this sooner” in heart, diabetes, liver or cancer cases. Preventive medicine and regular health screenings can change that.

Our health is one of our nation’s most precious and important assets – we must protect and nourish it. We can make choices to reduce our chances of getting conditions such as cancer, dementia, heart disease, depression and lung problems.

Prevention cannot be the mandate of the health system alone. Everyone has a part to play, and we must work together across society. This includes recognising the responsibilities of individuals and families in reducing the chances of becoming unwell in the first place, but also how the wider environment we live in determines our health.

A healthy nation is vital for a strong economy. Securing our nation’s health requires a significant and sustained effort to prevent illness and support good physical and mental health. We need to see a greater investment in prevention – to support people to live longer, healthier and more independent lives, and help to guarantee our health services for the long-term.

Public communications officer, Pharmacy & Poisons Board

Governor Charity Ngilu undergoes a health checkup at Kitui County Referral Hospital last year.
SCREENING: Governor Charity Ngilu undergoes a health checkup at Kitui County Referral Hospital last year.
Image: MUSEMBI NZENGU