What you need to know:
- The coronavirus has caused broad disruptions to health services while drawing attention to countries’ non-communicable diseases (NCD) burden.
- Persons living with NCDs are at increased risk of becoming severely ill with the virus.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to sit down and think, and we have realised the importance of our health. In the affected countries and regions, numerous measures have been taken to reduce the person-to-person virus transmission and curb its spread.
A rapid assessment by the WHO in May last year found that, with the rapid spread of Covid-19, the ability of countries to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs) was hugely affected.
The coronavirus has caused broad disruptions to health services while drawing attention to countries’ NCD burden. Persons living with NCDs are at increased risk of becoming severely ill with the virus.
Before Covid-19, the world was already off-track in the pursuit of many SDG targets, including that of reducing premature mortality from NCDs. The pandemic has made achievement of SDGs even more challenging and 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, affecting more people each year than all others combined. They are responsible for more than 70 per cent of all deaths with nearly 80 per cent of them occurring in low- and middle-income countries, where Covid-19 affects health services the most.
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. They are either largely preventable or fairly easily managed if patients and the general public prioritise preventive care.
I grew up listening to my mother saying “prevention is better than a cure”. The adage makes even 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 adequate thought?
As a public communication specialist, waiting until people get really sick and need costly interventions seems wasteful; as a citizen, it is frightening. Preventing future illnesses and complications from existing conditions is vital to the sustainability of health systems.
This would not only improve the quality of life for individuals, their families and society as a whole but also reduce pressure on healthcare and treatment facilities and health spending in the country.
There are two types of motorists: Those who get their car regularly serviced and those who wait to hear it make a strange noise and then keep on driving until they need the breakdown to tow it to the garage. The first thing you should focus on when it comes to preventing illness or disease is to make sure you are as healthy as possible.
For those serious about our health, l cannot overemphasise that, besides lifestyle choices, prevention through health screening is paramount. Nurture, encourage and motivate your family, friends and loved ones — that regular health screening, vaccination and working with your medical provider are essential to good health. Much too often, we hear the words “ too late” or “ if only we detected this sooner” in heart, diabetes, liver or cancer diseases. Preventive medicine and regular health screenings can change that.
But prevention cannot be effected by the health system alone. Everybody has a role to play in it 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.
Our health is one of our nation’s most precious assets. We must protect and nourish it. A healthy nation is vital for a strong economy. Securing it requires a significant and sustained effort to prevent illness and support good physical and mental health.
We need to see greater investment in prevention — to support people to live longer, healthier and more independent lives and guarantee health services for the long term.
Ms Sirima is a public communications officer, Pharmacy and Poisons Board. firstname.lastname@example.org.