The key to a healthy population is education

Dear Sir,

I have already written to you of my concerns about the Government’s plans to restructure healthcare. As stated previously, I agree with the goal, which, in a nutshell, is to have a healthy population.

After practising dentistry for more than 30 years, there is one truth that I have learnt, and it is this: it is not what I do for patients that has the most impact on their health, but what they do for themselves.

What medicine and dentistry do for the most part is monitor and put out fires. What a patient does is daily care, and when it is done with knowledge and intent, the benefit to their health can be life-enhancing.

I believe the key to a healthy population and, in turn, lowering the cost of healthcare is investing in education and the environment. I agreed with the sugar tax from a health standard. There is nothing beneficial to consuming refined sugar. But just taxing a commodity is not enough, and that measure simply underscores the need for a more far-reaching approach.

Our bodies are complex. Healthcare often falls short because we separate our bodies into components rather than looking at the whole. Our minds, our organs, our mouths and guts all interact and affect one another. What we put in our mouths and the air we breathe affects us. Our environments affect us. Trauma affects us. Becoming a healthy population is about becoming a healthy island.

For starters, I would love to see the health ministry take the valuable energy and substantial cost it is committing to changing the healthcare system and, instead, put it into the environment and education.

The ministry needs to have a bigger presence in our schools, ensuring that there are mind-healthy activities, such as physical and creative training for brain health, as well as safety nets and support for children dealing with trauma. The importance of personal health and learning how to make healthy choices needs to be a basic part of our education. Teachers need to be on board with these objectives.

What is happening to our farmland? Are we still dumping chemicals on our crops? Doesn’t it occur to us that what goes on to the fields eventually finds itself in our bodies? There is no question that fresh, locally grown organic crops are more beneficial to our bodies than days-old imported produce. So let’s invest in local agriculture. I know we don’t have the landmass to feed all our needs, but why not maximise what we can and support programmes that grow locally without chemicals that harm us or the environment.

I’ve mentioned only two areas where we can do better, but there are many other choices we can make as a collective that can impact our collective and individual health. The Ministry of Health has many arms and rightly so, because health is complex. But committing so much of its resources into one area just doesn’t make sense when the goal is to have a healthy population.

Most of the systems that can have a positive impact on our collective health are already in place. The challenge is to develop them further for the health of all. As I mentioned in my earlier letter, there is work to be done on making sure there is healthcare available for all who need and want it. But, remember, the majority are supported by the existing model. If it were the other way around and only a minority had sufficient coverage, I would be leading the charge for change. But that is not the case.

I believe that the resources and energy that the Government is committing to this plan will compromise access to care in the long term, but more importantly it will use up our limited resources and tax dollars on folly rather than tackling those areas of our daily lives that will truly help to make us a healthy people and island.



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Published Nov 26, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 26, 2019 at 8:13 am)

The key to a healthy population is education

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