“You must be the change that you wish to see in the world”

A very Happy New Year 2019

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”, says the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO).

More than seven decades have passed since the WHO Constitution came into force on April 7, 1948; yet, the significance of these words remains undiminished.

Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services …”

Healthcare is a birth right of every citizen of India, as enshrined in Article 21 “Right to life” of the Constitution of India and providing quality health care services to its citizens is the primary responsibility of governments. But, as individuals, we too have a responsibility toward our own health. “We have to be active participants in our own care” (WHO)

Our health is not just determined by eating healthy or regular check-ups or even taking the right medications or vaccinations at the right time.

Health is a product of our environment. This means that the conditions we live in also affect our health. This is why health has been defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” by the WHO.

The conditions of day-to-day life i.e. the conditions in which we live, learn, work and age are called the social determinants of health or “the causes of the causes”, which also form important aspects of health.

As individuals, we are not isolated units, but are a part of the society we live in. And, because we live in a community, we are also responsible for the health and well-being of others living in that community. The health of people, plants, animals and environment are interdependent. This is the concept of “One Health”.

Our Vedas teach us that “the whole world is one family” or “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam”.

This means keeping our neighborhood clean and working to improve the environment that may affect the health of others. Let’s take the example of air pollution, a burning public health issue today. Several studies have demonstrated the association of poor air quality with diseases such as heart disease, chronic airway diseases.

Most of existing pollution levels is man-made, so we also must make individual efforts to control pollution. It is our duty as active members of the society, to adopt measures to help control pollution. We must respect laws of the state in place and abide by them.

Every little step taken at the individual level will only work towards the goodwill of the society as a whole.

So, while I seek better health care from the government as my fundamental right, it is my duty to also contribute to it by being a responsible citizen.

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation said, “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

So, on this New Year day, let’s make a resolution to live a healthier life, not only for ourselves, but also for the community.

Here is a resolution we all can make:

“I have a fundamental right to health sans discrimination and taking into consideration all my social determinants of health and respecting my decision to opt for harm prevention or harm reduction. I recognize that I too have a duty to keep pollution levels under control, both indoor and outdoor. I will work towards the health of the environment, plants and animals and consequently my health.”

I wish you good health and happiness in the New Year and in the years to come…….

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