Health of the planet means our own


We’re edging closer and closer to making environment day an everyday thing, don’t you think? But for the benefit of those who need help, let’s unearth this year’s World Health Day theme – our planet, our health – and see what’s in there.

The day falls on Thursday April 7.

Health, as in vitality and wellbeing, is being connected to the planet that supports life; life – not just what each of us is gifted with – but the “essence” of survival.

Life is a responsibility and how we manage that responsibility permeates in ‘our’ existence.

To conduct this responsibility means being aware of what we need to do to meet our wants and needs, using the opportunities before us.

Some are created by people and others are intrinsic in nature; eg: the air we breathe, water, the weather- surface pressure systems, sunshine, rain, and endowments that support life.

That’s the link.

The continued and effective functioning of this link can be regarded as a health concern. It is “healthy” if it is working – to support our existence.

This, then, is the thinking behind the theme: our planet, our health.

It is becoming evident that the equilibrium has been disturbed and predictably there is a cost to this – climate change.

The backlash is permeating in all kinds of ways but in simplest form, how our ability to live out our lives is being profoundly impacted.

That is the synergy effect and it is a “health” concern. Health is ultimately about staying alive.

WHO is one of many UN agencies and it not only keeps a sleepless eye on world health but it supervises the distribution and control of medicine.

The link comes down to lifestyle – how we calibrate our wants and our needs in the overall condition that is permeating out there.

In that context, we’re not faring too well.

Lifestyle disease is on the rise.

Gout, for instance; the inflammation of joints, was once regarded as a rich man’s disease.

It no longer is because there is an explosion of lifestyle that increases of gout.

You’re told not to eat this or that and the list grows.

You begin to wonder if there’ll be anything left for you to eat, and that’s lifestyle.

Obesity can lead to things like heart failure and it is caused by over eating.

We may be tempted by very attractive things to over- indulge.

For instance I am addicted to coke and paying through high uric acid levels which contributes to gout. The pain of gout is debilitating; it pins you down.

Do not eat or prepare food using excessive oil.

Control your intake of sugar and salt.

All kinds of coffee have appeared in food bars frequented by rich people. Watch what you are feeding yourself with and do not follow the crowd; be your own man or woman and decide your own priorities.

People are dying young; many in their prime and lifestyle could be blamed in most cases.

There is an underside to this and it concerns people on low incomes.

In order to get what our body needs, we try all kinds of things that may be counterproductive to our health.

When you try to caution them; they’ll hiss: mipela ino olsem yupela white man. On a day like this, conduct awareness.

Say things on radio, newspapers and television. This is where public money is well spent; it is a benefit. You know the day is coming, prepare for it and that’s responsibility right there.

The lifestyle we are living can be cunningly used by COVID-19 to threaten us. Are you glued to your mobile device, it controls your life? Decide what is more important.

You can easily forget to wash your hands, keep your house clean, wash your clothes, groom yourself, or not watch what you are eating.

You are so occupied at work, you go home and it’s time to relax.

True, but keep one eye closed because our lifestyle is hooked to the frantic suburban living.

Sadly the tragedy of COVID has become a numbers game but personal and environmental hygiene is an important link in the planet and our health chain.

The paradox can be best explained with duck and toothpaste.

Duck: It looks calm and graceful as it moves on the water’s surface. But unseen beneath is the feet paddling furiously.

Toothpaste: Squeeze more than you need and there’s nothing you can do about it.

In July organisers of the 54th Medical Symposium 2018 invited Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare to speak at a dinner to raise money in Madang and he highlighted issues surrounding rural health, the theme for the symposium in September.

He spoke about the direction in which we are heading as a people and as a nation.

“A concern that I wish to mention at this juncture is the spread of lifestyle diseases into our rural area.

I hope that our discussion this year can help determine good policies for the government to implement in addressing health issues that could be managed without too much reliance on medical interventions and resources.

“The trend in the world today is to go back to organic food.

This development suits our traditional settings. If the health sector can embrace this and make our people appreciate garden food, fish from our rivers and seas, I am sure we can cut a great portion of the rising health issues like obesity, diabetes, organ failure, TB, HIV/Aids that are being detected in our rural communities.

“While we have food in abundance, knowledge of nutrition is poor in our country. I hope that awareness can focus more on healthy eating in our rural settings.

“Lamb flap, sheep tongue and foods fried in oil are not part of our traditional diet. Needless to say, nor is alcohol.

Yet in many of our rural villages and by the roadside you see the sale of factory-processed foods.

“I hope, however, that efforts are being made in areas such as planned parenting which I fully support.

I hope that this message is being spread through our rural communities as well.

Our traditional ways of birth control and caring for our children in our communities is no longer able to cope with our rapidly expanding population.

We must each take responsibility for the children that we have brought into this world.

“Non government organizations and church intervention is very much appreciated and needed to support government efforts in ensuring that every born child has access to basic health care and other social support structures.

“It is with sadness that I read about the detection of polio in the country after it had been successfully eradicated some 20 years ago.

I am sure the Health Department is doing whatever is possible now to ensure that children are once again being vaccinated.

It is also disturbing to read that PNG has an increase of 400 per cent in malaria while other nearby countries are planning total eradication of malaria by 2020.

“I take this opportunity to acknowledge the ongoing assistance of the World Health Organization and UNICEF in providing vaccines and contributing to our immunisation efforts in the country, which had reduced to approximately 30 per cent, partly due to the lack of funding and commitment – ​​by both national and provincial governments and district authorities.

“This year we are going to host APEC, a sure sign that we are no longer an isolated small island in the Pacific Ocean.

So as we grow and age we not only have to think about our children; we have to start thinking about our ageing population in our urban and rural communities as well.

“We need to start looking at how we care for our elderly as often today we can no longer rely on our children to look after and care for us.

“We need to focus on the mental health of our people.

Slowly focus is being made on members of our community that are mentally and physically challenged.

As this population of people increases we need to also look at how we can include them in our system of caring.”

Sir Michael said the medical symposium held the health sector together.

We had jumped from a population of 2.8 million people at independence to around eight million people in less than 50 years.

Regretfully the number of health practitioners had not increased proportionately to meet the huge demand for health services around the country.

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