Philosophy of Health
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” WHO (1)
The whole concept of health comes packaged in a glittery Pandora’s Box of philosophy. It’s a vast subject. I won’t go there. However, I won’t be wrong to sum up with – My body is a temple. I am merely a caretaker. I need to take control and do whatever it takes to keep the temple clean and running for the show/aarti of our lives. And when we have ‘this’ view of our bodies, we don’t abuse them and our mind is ready and set to achieve the destined goal of good health. And food just becomes a means to an end and nothing else.
Also, in a skewed twisted way, the definition above reads like a post-modern definition of Hinduism – After all, it is a way of life not a religion, per se. According to Hinduism, attaining good health appears to be humanity’s ultimate goal and purpose of life, like seeking Nirvana. And achieving a sustained good health is nothing short of nirvana. Nevertheless, good health is achieved ONLY with an understanding of a few intricacies, most importantly, the Determinants of Health and their devious inter-play with devastating outcomes un-leashed upon common lives. We’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s understand life in a more meaningful and deeper level, first.
Take a step back.
Imagine yourself in the middle of the universe suspended in ether. Now look down. What do you see?
You know what I see?
I see a kaleidoscopic view of millions and millions of Concentric Circles overlapping each other, rotating in their orbits. They form intricate Venn diagrams of various sizes and hues. The sight is breathtaking. Also, they are all moving in cycles and each Circle had its own pace (time) and rhythm.
Interestingly enough, I also see them as the circles of both the beginnings and the ends to everything.
In fact, everything in this universe is a Circle (Cycle) with a time-frame attached. Some cycles are mini like sun rise and sunset (24 hr), seasons (4 months cycles), life-death-rebirth cycles with indefinite time-frame, seasons’ cycles and everything you can think of and even our body. On a humorous note, no wonder our guys didn’t invent anything after Zero. I wonder how they knew, there was nothing before it and there is nothing after it. The cycles of the body nevertheless, need special attention and the topic will be handled in a separate post, but first let’s understand the circle of determinants of health.
Determinants of Health
Looking at the picture above, it seems every aspect (determinant) of life has an impact (big or small) on our lives and in turn on our health. I am forced to wonder, if this is the reason why Hinduism is called a way of life, because everything ‘The book’ prescribes, kind of leads you in the direction of attaining the goal of living a happy, healthy and disease free life.
At the outset everything seems simple and easy, but, it is not. It is also very misleading. For example, if the chart above depicts everything that influences our health, and if one acquires good education that assures a well paying job (for a sustainable income), gets a good house (to live in, create and groom progeny), practice healthy living habits (no alcohol or smoking topped with regular exercise), we should all be healthy, right? At least that is what the picture claims.
I wish it was that simple. Now, take another look at the picture. Look at how each of the determinant chunks seem independent. It does not show any inter-relation between the determinants of health, but only proves the fact that, they impact one’s health. It ignores the factors that play havoc outside the circle. For example, the picture only depicts culture playing a role on our health. It does not show how culture/ethnicity plays a role on education or its burden on an individual being gainfully employed or how this complex potpourri ruins ones health, if ignored. Also, it talks of health, only at a personal level. It does not show us how Healthcare spending, Public health policy, Health Regulations, Health research, Role of drug industry or other extraneous factors’ influence on our health both at an individual and societal level.
You see the complexity, right?
Anyways, going back to where we started, if everything is so complex to tease out, can we have a philosophy of health at a population or a collective conscience level? If so what are the things we need to do, or know, as individuals to take control and improve our’s and our family member’s health?
To kick start our journey on having a happy and healthy life, we need to have an understanding of a few things:
- Food production and consumption
- Nutrition and its importance
- Calories and counting
- Planning your meals with a diet plan
- Exercise: What to and what not to
- Juggling stress balls
- Time management for health
- Drugs and drug industry
- Mental health
- Prevention versus treatment and finally,
- Public sphere of health and discourses, with WHY health and health care should be a fundamental right.
The issues in the list above will be handled in great detail in the future posts. Once we have a fair understand of all the issues, we are well on your way to Good Health and in a position to restrict our chronic condition from spiraling, spreading its tentacles into other chronic conditions or influence the determinants of health and vice versa. And the ideology that emerges from your understanding becomes our philosophy on health. And when health philosophy is universally accepted and practiced at a collective conscience level (population level), we are journeying towards the goal of creating healthy individuals and societies.
So, to conclude, our Philosophy of Health then, can be summed up as an understanding of the role of the health determinant circles and their matrix like interplay, that influence our lives in general and health in particular. How we maneuver and manipulate the pathways and their roles and directions becomes our undercurrent philosophy of health.
Cabbage Egg Curry
2 tbsp of coconut oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp of cumin seeds
2-4 red chilies
2-4 green chilies
A pinch of Asafetida (Hing)
A few curry leaves
2 ½ inch ginger slice (grated finely)
½ tbsp of garam masala
¼ tbsp of turmeric
200 gms of finely chopped cabbage
100 grm carrots (3- 4 medium ones)
2 Eggs (Use only the whites)
1 large bunch of spring onions
Salt to taste
Finely, chop cabbage and carrots and steam it in a cooker until it blows one whistle and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Separate the egg yolks and keep them ready.
Finely chop the spring onions and keep them ready.
Grate the ginger and keep it ready.
Add oil into the pan and when it is hot enough, add the mustard seeds.
When they crackle, add the cumin seeds, hing, red chilies, green chilies and curry leaves.
Then add the spring onions. When they are semi-soft, add the steamed cabbage and carrot.
Add turmeric, grated ginger, garam masala, salt and stir. Fry the ingredients in the pan for about 4- 7 minutes.
Add the egg whites and cook until the eggs are done and switch off the stove. Garnish it with finely chopped coriander leaves.
Serving: Recipe serves 3 – 4 people. It can be eaten with roti for breakfast or with rice for lunch or dinner.
Table 1: Nutritional chart for the recipe above
Table 2: Nutritional Info of 1 tablespoon of oil (3)
Some fun and cool facts
** Green Chillies have more vitamin C per gram, than oranges.
** Coconut oil has been demonized in the past because it contains saturated fat. In fact, coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fat known to man, with almost 90% of the fatty acids in it being saturated (4).
However, new data is showing that saturated fats are harmless. Many massive studies that include hundreds of thousands of people prove that the whole “artery-clogging” idea was a myth (5).
- Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.
- Source: Bulletin of the World Health Organization. Google Images.