January 24th is when the world observes International Day of Education, and one of the important aspects of education that go unnoticed is that of health. A study by India Heart Watch found that just 57% of hypertension patients knew about their condition.* In another study, less than half the population knew what diabetes was, and half of the respondents who were aware of the disease did not know it was preventable.** It indicates a problem with the way fitness is generally thought of. Often fitness resolutions are just physical goals about going to the gym or eating healthier. However, fitness also includes learning to identify warning signs of poor health, encouraging others to consult the doctor when necessary, and promoting health awareness in the community. Investing in health education through individual and collective efforts can ensure your well-being in the long run. Here’s how you can get started:
Encourage your children to take care of their health by inculcating habits like drinking water regularly. Eat meals together and plan physical activities like basketball for the entire family. While it’s best to avoid a restrictive diet, you can help them choose healthier snacks by keeping a variety of those options at home. Have teenagers understand the basics of health insurance to help them focus on bodily health and become self-reliant when finding medical care. Have conversations with them about body health, including menstrual and reproductory health. Teach them as well as elderly family members that signs like shortness of breath, blood in the stool, discomfort in the chest/arm/below the breastbone, unexplained changes in weight and appetite are things that need to be checked with the doctor.
You can also advocate for better health education at their school. The necessity of vaccines, substance abuse, nutritional disorders, sexual health and emotional health are some health issues that can go overlooked but need to be addressed. Ensure there is a psychological counsellor present on campus, and ask for healthy food options to be included in the canteen.
Educate at the workplace
At the workplace, bring up the need for emotional counselling to be provided. Other measures that can be taken include conducting health screenings, seminars, employee health risk appraisals, and implementing programmes to help smokers who want to quit. Involve your colleagues and management in maintaining a hazard-free, clean working environment. Ensure your colleagues take sick leaves when required and do not push themselves too far. Symptoms like headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, procrastination and poor job performance are warning signs that someone might be experiencing workplace stress and need a break, or help to cope.
Involve the entire community
Often the environment a community lives in determines its health. Contamination of drinking water supply and living close to a garbage dump for example, are common health hazards. Sometimes, the community might themselves might contribute to such a situation. Identify problem areas and have the community arrange for a solution by talking to public health officers or hygiene/waste disposal companies. Have a doctor speak about warning signs, potential health issues, and call for vaccination camps to be set up as well.
Staying healthy is both an individual and a collective goal that can be achieved by better educative measures. Ensure that you take preventive measures with regular health check-ups and early diagnosis when warning signs set in.
*NCBI World Journal of Cardiology
**NCBI The Indian Council of Medical Research India Diabetes Study