Freedom & Health

Words: Dr Ambika P NAYAK

Henri-Frederic Amiel, the philosopher, poet, and critic, put it aptly, “In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties.” The first question that popped when I woke up this morning, therefore, was: in what way this, the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of our Independence, would affect my health and everyone’s wellness? Well, if you’d know anybody belonging to the generation before the dawn of Independent India, please ask them that question. Well, the fact, in my view, is: the ecstasy of freedom, after all the agony, would have certainly propelled them with a great mental health boost, as also a sense of physical delight, for being freed from the clutches of colonial rule.

Well, as the cliché goes, we’ve come a long way, while celebrating the 75th Independence Day this year. But, just picture this – it has been a gloomy year-and-a-half now, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the writing is on the wall. Most of us have realised the need for a good health and clear conscience as to whatever we did, or what is it we are doing now to maintain and sustain our health and wellness. This leads us to the real, big question: do we have our independence with regard to our health? Possibly not, because to highlight just one point, India is today labelled as the diabetes and heart disease capital of the world.

Let’s now ‘mirror’ the WHO ‘preamble’ on freedom and health –

“The right to the highest attainable standard of health” implies a clear set of legal obligations on states to ensure appropriate conditions for the enjoyment of health for all people without discrimination. The right to health is one of a set of internationally agreed human rights standards, and is inseparable or ‘indivisible’ from these other rights. This means achieving the right to health is both central to, and dependent upon, the realisation of other human rights, to food, housing, work, education, information, and participation. The right to health, as with other rights, includes both freedoms and entitlements: freedoms include the right to control one’s health and body [for example, sexual and reproductive rights] and to be free from interference [for example, free from torture and non-consensual medical treatment and experimentation]. Entitlements include the right to a system of health protection that gives everyone an equal opportunity to enjoy the highest attainable level of health.”

Back To The Future

To look back and focus just a bit ahead. India has always been endowed with a balanced tradition with regard to diet, lifestyle and the environment we live in. With the influence and adoption of different cultures, fast-paced life and competitive work in the times we now live in, we are inviting a host of lifestyle-related disorders, followed by stress-related diseases. A ‘cure’ has become as challenging as chasing a mirage, because the causative factor is, more or less, constant, also unchanging. Unless each of us corrects and redeems the native practices of food and lifestyle, there will be no end to disease and we’ll be inviting several unknown illnesses in the years to come, notwithstanding our freedom, or whatever there is to it.

How does ‘independence of health’ affect our life? Being healthy, physically and mentally, improves our quality of life [QoL]. It also gives us a sense of confidence and purpose, especially in the older age groups where the constant fear of having to depend on a care-taker, or being a burden on family members is nerve-racking.

Aging is natural and will come to everyone. It is, therefore, ideal for us to opt for a paradigm shift – from accepting old age to think of and practice successful aging. This would be a great, healthy achievement by itself.

Like it or not, all of us have a tendency to relish all the wrong practices. We ought to take a vow today and correct our unhealthy flaws to be endowed with the independence of health. Once this is accomplished, life will be just a tad better, maybe vibrant too.

The idea of total health, or good health, is a continuous process. Caring for one’s own health should begin at an early age. But, the big question is: why does one ‘watch’ what they eat, or do only during pregnancy, or post-surgery, or during an illness?

Healthcare is a responsibility, for all age groups, at all times, practically every day – in sickness and health. It is never too late to start a good habit. It would, therefore, also be imperative that healthcare, as a subject of study, should be included in our school curriculum.

Small, Big Steps

You’d think of a handful of easy and quick steps, whether you are a kid, or adult – early to bed, early to rise, sleeping for at least six hours every night, exercising every day, keeping active through the day, eating healthy and light food, and on time, drinking sufficient amount of water, sparing some ‘me time’ and family time, exposing gently to the tender Sun in the morning and the fresh zephyr, as also pursuing interests and hobbies at leisure. This is what freedom and health is all about.

Let’s take the solemn pledge, a new ‘tryst with destiny’ this Independence Day, to stay fit and healthy, while taking one day at a time, and one new healthy change in diet, or lifestyle, on a regular basis.

Get, set, go with your resolve from this moment and let the Song of Independence bloom with good health and optimal wellness.

Dr AMBIKA P NAYAK, MD [Ayurveda], is Founder & Managing Director of Ayurvedeeyam, a speciality Ayurveda Clinic in Bengaluru. Her passion for the ancient, yet ‘completest’ natural medical system, and professional clinical skills are keyed to raising awareness for Ayurveda as a first choice of treatment for illness and healthy living, just as much as her axiom, Svasthasya svāsthya rakaaṃ — the age-old, fundamental principle of Ayurveda. Dr Nayak, who has presented papers and participated in national and international symposia, is also a strong advocate of panchakarma, thanks to its fully holistic and proven therapeutic efficacy in the treatment and prevention of illness, or disease.

1 thoughts on “Freedom & Health

  1. Wasim says:

    This is a timely article. It celebrates the idea that freedom and health are the two sides of the same coin and that they just can’t ‘exist’ without each other.

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