Accountability for Health - help the healthcare system

May 29, 2020

2020 has been a pivotal year for the global population. We were hit by the unprecedented, Coronavirus - COVID-19. At the time of writing this article, most countries are still in full or partial lockdown and governments, scientists, clinicians and health authorities around the world are scrambling to develop a vaccine or at least a cocktail of drugs to help those that are severely affected by the virus. As it stands, the world and our daily lives have been completely transformed.

In the UK, there has been a lot of emphasis on our National Health Services (NHS) about its ability to cope and not be overwhelmed during the peak of the pandemic. Fortunately, the service has coped well and continues to operate with strength as the pandemic continues. Although, it has to be noted that this is primarily as a result of the dedication of the staff that work in the NHS, and despite facing extreme dangers to their own health, worked flat-out to support the country in this time of crisis. There are also other political factors such as under-funding, poor management and bureaucracy in the service, which all play a part in it’s daily success or struggles. But, it continues to thrive and be there when we need it.

As a nation, we are incredibly fortunate to have access to free healthcare at the point of delivery and it’s something we are all thankful for. There are so many countries that don’t have this luxury. However, there is a question around our dependence on this service and the responsibility we all have for maintaining our own good health. During lockdown, there has been a vast increase in the public engaging in exercise, monitoring their health (checking for symptoms) and being more cautious in their day to day activities to avoid catching the virus. Granted, this is primarily down to the restrictions that we have been under and the national message of “Stay at Home”, “Protect the NHS”, “Save Lives”, but people seem to be much more conscious of the health impacts that might come from the life choices they make. No exercise, bad diet, excessive alcohol or smoking, driving rather than walking etc, all areas that, with some small changes, could lead to a great positive impact on our health, and importantly, release the strain on our National Health Service.

The NHS is there to help when we are in trouble and need medical intervention. But we have a responsibility as a population to look after our own healthcare. It’s important that, as a nation, we don’t view the NHS as an entitlement, and rather, view it as a benefit or safety net.

Technology is playing a fantastic role in self care, and now we are able to monitor many factors that affect our overall health. Diet, weight, heart rate, movements, even more extreme checks such as bowel, blood and gut health can be carried out at home. You can even order a kit that will provide you with a full map of your genetic make up, and highlight the major risk factors that are personal to you. Knowing this information means you can take action to mitigate those specific risks. Perhaps this is a service that should be compulsory for all, as a way to pass some of the responsibility of our health onto our shoulders? Sure, in times of need, the amazing NHS is still there to help us, but at least we would have taken steps to mitigate this as much as possible.

COVID-19 reminds us that we are all mortal, and susceptible to illness. But we know that the life choices we make everyday can have a massive effect on our physical and mental health. There’s no doubt that as a nation, we love our National Health Service and support them in their everyday endeavour to keep us well. This is reflected by the weekly, Thursday evening applause that the country participates in to celebrate our NHS. But it must be more than this. If we truly are to support the service and reduce strain on staff and resources, we need to take personal action to maintain our own good health. We should work in partnership with the NHS to keep the country healthy, rather than simply rely on it to pick up the pieces when things go wrong. Of course, it will always be there to help and we are all grateful, but with a more conscious public effort to live a healthy lifestyle, we can together grow as a healthy Nation.

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