‘Focus on the health of children to build a healthy state’

We are all well-aware of the term – Health is Wealth. But how many of us have ever given a thought about what health truly means? When we talk about Healthy Maharashtra, we need to understand the meaning of health, and whose responsibility it is

Dr-Yashwant-Amdekar

Health is a shared responsibility of the government and parents. One cannot merely pass the buck on the government. As parents, we must share equal responsibility when it comes to ensuring healthy lives for our children. A healthy child will help build a healthy home, and healthy homes are the bricks that build a healthy state.

When we talk about health, it’s generally implied or assumed to be physical health. If a person’s weight is proportional to his/her height and he/she is disease-free, we term the person as a healthy human being. We must understand that the mental health of a person is just as important as physical health.

As parents, we need to focus on a child’s mental health and make them aware of values such as obedience. A child’s ability to digest a firm ‘No’ is the foundation for strong mental health.

‘Health’ has four aspects – physical, mental, emotional and social. When all of this is in equilibrium, it is the beginning of a healthy life for human beings.

Several children come to me with stomach ailments. Despite not suffering from any disease, how do they develop these conditions? As a parent, we must question ourselves about what our children are eating, and how it is affecting them physically and psychologically.

By now, it must be clear to you that ‘health’ has four aspects – physical, mental, emotional and social. When all of this is in equilibrium, it is the beginning of a healthy life for human beings.

Coming to Maharashtra, it is a wealthy state. In fact, it is one of the richest states in India. The shocking reality, however, is the state’s poverty index is at par with the national average. In Maharashtra:

  • 40 to 50% of children are malnourished
  • 25% suffer from obesity

The numbers show we have been able to keep only 25% of our children healthy.

Why is a state like Maharashtra in such a sorry state? The answer is economic disparity. Only a handful of people can afford nutritious food, the rest is deprived of basic meals. This is the reason why there are such extremes in our state. Almost 99% of our children, who are born completely normal, do not remain that way. As parents, we need to question ourselves and figure out where we are going wrong.

Let’s take the simple example of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding helps build immunity of a child and should be done with love and affection. Nutrition blended with love only will have the best impact on a child’s health and he/she will grow normally. But if the mother and the doctor both are not aware of this, the child suffers right from his/her birth. Sometimes the doctors lack conviction and commitment when it comes to breastfeeding.

Obesity is spreading like an epidemic in India. Are you aware that one of the cause of obesity is not breastfeeding the child? Mother’s milk is anti-obesity.The other important aspects are culture, communication and healthy atmosphere in the family. All the three have one thing in common-health.

Huge memorial or statutes will not help build a healthy society. There are several issues that need to be addressed. However, the reality is the core issues take a back seat due to vote politics.

Maharashtra’s health budget is very low. And, we don’t even know if the funds allocated for health does reach those in need. My fear is they don’t. While money is being spent, it is not done properly. The other, and most important thing that worries me is unavailability of the doctors in rural areas. We don’t need specialist doctors, we just need doctors who can take care of most basic healthcare.

The author is a paediatrician