As a new year dawns, I thought that it would be appropriate to write a few words about ‘health’. So what is ‘health’? ‘Health’ is defined by the World Health Organisation as being ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. The key point here is that ‘health’ is about so much more than just the absence of disease and embraces all aspects of our interactions with each other and the World around us. Given this definition, just how many of us, might actually be classified as being truly ‘healthy’?
As a species we are currently sinking under a tidal wave of chronic disease – these are long-term health conditions that require on-going management and their prevalence is growing at an alarming rate. These include cancer, dementia, diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, asthma and depression. Our NHS is literally being overwhelmed by complex chronic conditions. To put this into perspective NHS statistics reveal that approximately 45% of the English population have at least one chronic condition, with 16% having one or more. What is extremely concerning is that 15% of young adults (11-15) in England now have a chronic condition and 70% of the health care budget is being spent on chronic disease management.
The current approach is clearly broken. We cannot afford to just keep pumping extra billions of pounds into a system that with all the best will in the world is simply ‘managing disease’ using a ‘top down’ approach to treat symptoms with prescribed medications. We need instead to focus on the creation and promotion of ‘health’, so that the body is effectively unable to harbour disease.
We are over medicalised and need to take a step back from the current accepted paradigm and instead practice a number of simple yet powerful choices that most of us can make of consuming more nutrient dense foods, reducing toxin exposure, practicing mindfulness, less reliance on social/digital media with more real world interactions and regularly getting out in nature and moving. Of course there are times when it is appropriate to use medications to help manage certain acute and complex chronic conditions. The objective however should always be wherever possible to minimise medication load and duration. Remember that poor health is not due to a lack of medications. Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2020.