As noted from my public health professor, Dr. Shirdi Prasad Teku, we should seek balance of our health needs. Each area is either in excess, in deficiency, or in balance. Also health is dynamic, there can be a constant reassessment of balance based on external (environmental) and internal (perceptions - thoughts and feelings) effects. Try the following exercise to check out your life balance - make a table like the one below, and put a "-" in each cell that you find deficient, a "+" in each cell that is in in excess, and "/" for cells in balance. As an example for the intellect category, a college student may
- be getting a good amount of intellectual nutrition with their academics (/);
- have intellectual protection if they are learning at an appropriate level (a freshman is taking freshmen-level classes) (/);
- get an excess of intellectual exercise with homework assignments (+);
- have an appropriate amount of work, if prepared for exams and papers (stop procrastinating!) (/);
- lack rest if not taking enough study breaks (-); and
- have a balanced environment with their class and study environments (/).
Another aspect of health is the relationship between the host, vector, agent, and environment. In the case of a malaria (and in leu of Indian illnesses), a person would be the host, a mosquito would be vector, the malaria virus would be the agent, and the environment is the physical environment. The vector transmits the disease from the agent to the host, given a conducive environment. Disease is preventable in four ways:
- By minimizing the medium that a disease may transmit (don't leave out standing water, use mosquito nets, close windows at night, test and treat people in the community),
- killing or sterilizing the vector,
- strengthening the host (vaccinate, decrease stress, increase sleep, increase good nutrients, wear long-sleeved shirts), and
- killing the agent (malaria virus).
This leads into another area of discussion in public health: the importance of primary care. At any given time, 95% of people are healthy. This 95% need the primary health, which is not a governmental issue, not a doctor's issue, but a peoples' issue. Human behavior is the most important thing in primary health, and it is important to know how to care for one's self through good life balance and how to care for others in the same way. Upon reflection, I don't believe primary health is well attended in the U.S., because of the high level of stress, frequent disregard for nutrition and sleep. Unfortunately, the majority of health care funds (98%) go into secondary and tertiary care. This includes the treatment of the disease and residual effects. I would like to call this practice "sick care" instead of "health care." For however much fun it is to develop biomedically engineered devices to solve health problems, I hope that there is a greater future emphasis on primary health to replace some of the biotech need.
Finally, it is important to note the various health systems of the world. There are around 350 health systems that people operate under. Some common types include:
- homeopathic (originating in Germany, often associated with Indian and "total wellness" mentalities)
- allopathy (Western medicine, connecting statistics, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, and pharma-tech to treat disease),
- ayurveda (Common to Indian medicine: we are made up of three things - energy, metabolic processes and product), and
- yoga/natuopathy (Gandhi practiced this: we have a union of the body, mind, and soul - balance of the body allows for balance of the mind and of the soul. In our bodies are representations of the four elements: wind, earth, fire, and water).
In summary, it's been a great few weeks learning under Dr. Shirdi. His humility and awareness of health and human life have been very life-giving. I look forward to gaining greater insight in health as I learn from the Indian public health sector for the remainder of this year.
Thanks for reading.
- Dr. Shirdi on how to study; how to learn. "The natural state of the mind is here and now. Anytime before you learn, take a brief exercise to engage and understand your senses - what do you touch, smell, hear, taste, and see? The mind can not be controlled, it can only be trained. Train it to be where you want it to be, when you want it. And enjoy the process of learning; like a child, you learn best by playing, enjoying, and being curious."
- Dr. Shirdi. "The greatest fool can ask more than the wisest man can answer."
- Gandhi (at least from the film). "There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it leads to hunger and unhappiness for another."
- Gandhi (again, from the film "Gandhi"). "An eye for an eye only ends with making the whole world blind. If we obtain our freedom from bloodshed, there is no hope in that direction. Don't despair, even if it is thought to be nearly impossible, the route of truth and love always wins."