Taking charge of your health: The challenges of reliable information and knowledge acquisition.

When it comes to taking charge of your health, one of the most important pillars of self-care is health literacy, i.e, understanding how your health impacts your well-being and how your actions make a difference. Another pillar of self-care for health is self-awareness, i.e, understanding your current physical and mental health as well as how you can improve these aspects. Of paramount importance to utilize these pillars of self care for health is acquisition of the relevant knowledge and getting the appropriate medical/health care service, help or advice. These stages are where some of the greatest challenges lie as the kind of helpful medical/health care information out there is fairy complex to navigate through, with regards to obtaining appropriate health care information and help or advice that benefits the consumer, and not skewed and misleading health information meant only to serve financial interest of certain groups of people, organizations or institutions or even powerful nations. Here is a classic example of challenges one can encounter.

In 2012, an extensive (over a hundred pages) report by the National Institute of Health (NIH) -  (A part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is the largest biomedical research agency in the world),  assert that inactivity/lack of exercise is the major primary cause of most chronic diseases. The problem with such assertions is that such information form the basis of health policy and health strategies formulations which impacts on peoples’ lives in many parts of the world.

The big questions  then are: Are these assertions correct? Where is the hard science that supports these assertions ( the pathobiology, pathophysiology, pathobiochemistry)? What it means to say that lack of exercise/inactivity is a major primary cause of many chronic diseases means that for any of those implicated chronic diseases, lack of exercise/inactivity should be present for initiation of the disease. Getting rid of lack of exercise/inactivity by regular exercising or some form of physical activity should be able to eradicate related chronic diseases. Does this argument hold? I don’t think so.

I view the assertions provided in this report of lack of exercise /inactivity as a major cause of chronic diseases, as outright wrong.  The information provided in this report would not be of much help to the health care consumer. Unfortunately, this is the kind of  information that frequently guides health care advice for consumers by the mainstream medical or health care providers. I would however agree with part of the claim mentioned in the report, that avoiding lack of exercise/inactivity by conducting moderate physical exercise/activity plays a role as part of chronic disease preventive strategy.

We should be able to  be mindful of the notion that, in taking charge of our own health, gone are the old days where we grew up with the idea that the doctor/physician knows best and knows everything, and we need to follow their orders or advice without questioning. Today, within the context of taking charge of your health, there is need to do your research in order to be an informed health care consumer who is able to choose the appropriate medical/health care provider of a partnership relationship that meets agreed, desired medical/health care needs.


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