Thoughts on World Health Day

The World Health Day was observed in Bangladesh on Monday with the usual ceremonies. But the enthusiasm for observing this event notwithstanding, the realities in the sphere of public health services are not satisfactory.
It is not that Bangladesh spends too little as a developing country on health care. The public allocation of resources for health and medical care these days is fairly large given the limitations of the country and different sectors competing for scarce sources. Over the years, a sprawling network with rural health complexes or small hospitals have been set up all over the country. The major cities are a served by bigger public hospitals. The government, specially the incumbent one, has been progressively spending greater resources in maintaining such medical and health related establishments.
But corruption, lack of supervision and accountability are not allowing their users from getting the benefits. In a country like Bangladesh with a vast number of people living below the poverty line, the reliance on the public health sector for treatment and advice at bearable costs is understandably high. Therefore, the overall improvement of human health in the country seems to depend very significantly on running these government managed health and medical care centres truly efficiently.
There is a wise saying ‘prevention is better than cure’. A person can go for prevention rather than cure. By taking preventive measures a person can keep himself or herself away from various diseases. This can spare families from spending large sum of money unproductively. Once a person of modest means is attacked by a fatal disease, it can play havoc with the resources of his/her family.
Preventive health care is indeed a glimmer of hope in the health sector. Due to lack of awareness, reckless living, habit of smoking, absence of physical exercise, consumption of fatty food items, hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh are being afflicted with serious diseases every year. The treatment of the growing number of sick persons is taking a heavy toll on family resources as well as the state exchequer.
Unchecked diabetes may lead to heart and kidney ailments. Treatment of heart and kidney diseases is expensive. A person with a terminal case of kidney disease has to undergo dialysis. Through this his or her life can be saved for a few years. But many families do not have the financial ability to do so ; bearing the dialysis treatment costs of a kidney patient may push a family into utter financial distress.
Smoking may cause cancer, TB and other fatal disease. Despite knowing this bitter truth , people in great number are seen smoking cigarettes and bidis freely in their homes and at public places. In rural areas housewives in increasing numbers are suffering from asthma. Their asphyxiating exposure to the smokes coming out of the earthen stoves while cooking food leads to the disease. Use of a special kind of smoke-free stove can protect them from the disease. Many other examples can be shown of how our people can remain in good health by adopting correct life styles.
In sum, the main advocacy here is : government must recognize preventive activities against serious diseases as an important policy prescription to be able to substantially reduce medical budgets both at the level of the individual or family as well as of the state. To this end, the government and non governmental organizations should seek to motivate people in general to opt for a healthier life style.
People can be kept educated about not smoking, taking proper diets, observing thoroughly essential hygiene and maintaining their physical environments safe. From doing of these things alone, a number of serious diseases can be warded off and health of people can generally improve. Furthermore, government should take on major campaigns to increase nutritional awareness. People may learn how to cater effectively to nutritional needs from consumption of cheap but nutritionally rich foodstuffs. Children at schools and workers in factories can be supported with free distribution or sale at nominal prices dietary supplements or nutritious foods .
On the one hand, world class privately owned hospitals and diagnostic centres are coming up in the major cities. Government should encourage this trend . On the other hand, regulatory activities in relation to privately operated sub-standard medical or health centres need to be tighter for the sake of improving the quality of services.