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All have a right to health and can contribute to it

Taking illicit drugs can likewise result in mental illness.

THE right to health is important for everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing. This is one of the reasons the World Health Organisation  chose the theme ‘My health, my right’ for this year’s World Health Day, which is this Sunday.

World Health Day, which falls annually on April 7, was established to draw attention to significant public health concerns around the globe, giving global health stakeholders and the general public a platform to discuss and address these issues.

This year’s theme, ‘My health, my right’ was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, health education and health information.

It also advocates everyone’s right to safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions and freedom from discrimination, all of which have a bearing on a person’s health.

Access to quality health

Unfortunately not everyone currently has equal access to quality health services. For many the services may be available but unaffordable.

Trying to ensure you can access quality health services when they are needed is one of the reasons people join medical aid societies, such as Cimas. Trying to ensure that its members and members of the public have access to quality health services is the main reason that Cimas has gone into health service provision.

While for decades medical aid societies only provided financial assistance for the health services that its members needed, in recent years Cimas and some other medical aid societies have been offering some of these services themselves.

While Cimas offers a variety of medical aid packages suitable for various income groups, the number of people who belong to medical aid societies is a small fraction of the population.

Government has committed itself to establishing a National Health Insurance scheme, which would benefit in particular those who do not belong to a medical aid society.

It is committed to the concept of everyone having access to quality affordable health services. However, translating this into a viable health scheme has proved challenging.

The minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Douglas Mombeshora, has said the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme is expected to be in place by July this year.

Maintaining good health

However, health is about more than obtaining health services when we are unwell. Even more important is maintaining good health and wellness, so that our need for curative health services is minimised.

It is for this reason that Cimas established its iGo wellness programme to promote the good health of its members in particular and Zimbabweans in general.

By adopting a healthy lifestyle, we can to some degree take charge of our own health by minimising the risk of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.

This is where access to health education and information comes in. If those who smoke tobacco,  take drugs or regularly become drunk appreciated the damage they are doing to their health, they would surely do something to quit these unhealthy habits.

Smoking not only frequently leads to lung cancer but is a risk factor for almost any non-infectious disease you can think of.

Excessive alcohol consumption can damage our liver and various other organs and, if it becomes an addiction, affect our mental health. Taking  illicit drugs  can likewise result in mental and physical illnesses.

However, abstaining from these unhealthy habits is not sufficient to ensure wellness. A healthy diet, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, learning to deal with stress and maintaining a healthy weight are all important.

A well balanced diet includes fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. We should ideally eat fruit and vegetables every day. Fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent inflammatory and heart diseases.

Try to avoid unhealthy fats. They should only make up 30% of your total energy intake. Stick to unsaturated fats such as olive oil, fish, nuts, seeds and avocados.

Avoid saturated fats such as are found in red meat, butter and cheese as well as trans fats from baked foods and pre-packaged ready-to-eat meals.

Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet reduces the risk of high blood pressure. Daily consumption of salt should not exceed one teaspoon. Avoid  too many salty snacks such as crisps and biltong.

Reduce the amount of sugar you have. Avoid sugary foods such as sweets and biscuits and sweetened drinks.

Remember to drink enough water to stay well hydrated. Water is necessary for regular bowel function, optimal muscle performance and your immune and skin health.

Drinking insufficient water can cause dehydration, fatigue, headaches, dry skin and weakened immunity.

Try to have at least 150 minutes exercise a week or 30 minutes exercise at least five days a week. The goal is to stay physically active. This can be done by walking, jogging, swimming or playing social soccer, tennis or any other active sport.

Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and decreases your risk of developing diseases as a result of a sedentary lifestyle.

Try to have enough sleep every night. Seven to nine hours of sleep heals and strengthens your body while you are asleep. Good sleep is vital for good physical and mental health.

Protect yourself from the sun. Frequent and long-term sun exposure is associated with a greater risk of skin cancer

Stress is known to trigger many illnesses from migraines to heart problems. Find ways to relieve stress, whether through meditation, relaxation, watching a movie, painting, going for long walks, working in the garden, listening to music or soaking in a bubble bath.  Sharing how you feel with people you trust can provide immediate stress relief and help you let go of tension.

Taking care of your sexual health is also important for your overall health. Stick to one faithful partner to avoid sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/Aids. Washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using an alcohol-based sanitiser is a simple but effective way to stop the spread of infections.

Remember to wash your hands before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom and while caring for a sick person.

Our health is our right. While we cannot escape some infections, we can do a great deal to remain healthy by choosing a healthy lifestyle.

  • The information in this article is provided as a public service by the Cimas iGo Wellness programme, which is designed to promote good health. It is provided for general information only and should not be construed as medical advice. Readers should consult their doctor or clinic on any matter related to their health or the treatment of any health problem. — igo@cimas.co.zw or WhatsApp 0772 161 829 or phone 024-2773 0663

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