Tue, 12 Mar 2024 Feature Article

We are dying Young, No one Cares!

We are dying Young, No one Cares!
12 MAR 2024 LISTEN

I recently read a report published by the Daily Graphic that a study on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) conducted at Ga Mashie in Accra has revealed that six out of 10 residents in that area had either hypertension, diabetes, or obesity.

Particularly, for diabetes, the study found that the prevalence was 8.2 percent while hypertension prevalence increased by 19 percent between 2013 and 2023. It found that those with diabetes had a lower quality of life compared to those without diabetes.

The study was conducted by the Contextual Awareness Response and Evaluation; Diabetes in Ghana (CARE Diabetes) project team, made up of people from the University of Ghana, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, UHAS, and with funding from MRC of the UK Research and Innovation.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I also watched a health report on Joy News on 10th March that asserts that stroke cases have gone up by 500% at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and they are worried that people are eating less fruits, and vegetables and are not exercising. But how can we eat fruits and veggies when the prices are high in the market? I bought one mango at 20 Cedis on the Dodowa road. How many can buy fruits and vegetables?

I have read other studies also supporting this recent report. For instance, (Atibila et al. 2021; Asamoah-Boaheng et al. 2019) found that Ghanaians have hypertension and diabetes prevalence rates of 30.3% and 6.46 %, respectively.

A recent study by Dai et al.(2022) reported a 53.72% hypertension prevalence rate among older adults. A more recent study by Asante et al. (2023) for instance in Akatsi district reported that 46.67% of the respondents frequently monitor their blood pressure and 17.33% their blood glucose (at least once a year).

An earlier review by Bosu and Bosu(2021) that represents the country reported more than one in four adults in Ghana have hypertension. This high prevalence has persisted for decades and is similar in rural and urban populations.

The question that borders me is who would take action on all these findings affecting the health of the people. Is the government interested in preventative medicine for the public?

Just look at the obituaries now: We are dying young in our thirties and forties. What is the medical community doing? What is the scientific community doing? What is the government doing? What is the church doing about this? What is the family institution doing about this? What are the individuals doing themselves?

The interesting thing is that, in the case of a kidney crisis, the medical community blames it on the use of herbal medicines. Last year, my niece died of kidney disease at age 16. So how can you convince me that she took an herbal concoction? Just recently, a journalist friend with one of the renowned media houses in the country is also battling with a kidney issue.

The interesting thing is that the medical community cannot tell us the specific herbs or herbal products that are harming kidneys. It is only a ‘blame game’ medical practice. We need to move from the practice of ‘emotional medicine’ to action. It is time for a collective action to help save many lives. We cannot use observations in our clinics to make emphatic conclusions that herbs are affecting kidneys without applying scientific methods.

When I went to the Law School in The Gambia, I noticed something very strange. My residence at Manjai –Kunda is 60 seconds from the cemetery. My room and kitchen directly faced the cemetery. Most of my colleagues had to relocate from the residence due to the view of the cemetery. I mastered the courage to stay in that apartment with three other aspiring legal practitioners.

I noticed something interesting. After almost five months in that community, I have not seen anyone being buried at the cemetery. So, I had to ask one of my colleagues who told me that it could be a neglected cemetery. But we later asked the security man who confirmed that it is not a neglected cemetery and is even a Christian cemetery.

So, I asked why then, are our cemeteries in Ghana, always packed daily? Even on the Banjul highway Cemetery to the Gambia Law School which was our daily route to school, it might interest you to know that, it was once we witnessed such an occasion where someone was being buried. In Ghana, such a cemetery would have not gotten a breathing space for funerals.

Even in The Gambia, where people complain that they eat a lot of sugar, there is something unique I also found. Diabetes rates are very low, at 0.3%, and 1.6 % (Sande et al. 1997; IDF, 2019), even though recent findings pegged it at 6.3%(Jobe et al. 2024). There could be differences in the sugar intake in the advanced countries, and developing ones such as the Gambia, Ghana, and others.

I think that in the West, sugar is added to all processed foods and snacks, besides, everyone eats a lot of sweets. In The Gambia, I observed that most people eat fresh foods and not so much processed ones. I noticed something about them in their market at Serekunda; you will see fresh foods being displayed. Tomatoes are not rotten; they are not allowed to ripen before being brought to the market.

Apart from that, Gambians eat rich foods enriched with natural spices. You will see market women drinking their attayas, coffees, and the rest. Even their Tapalapa bread is eaten very rich; beans and natural spices are added. Another interesting thing I noticed was that the country was free from polybags unlike, Ghana.

There is so much stress on us. People are not checking their blood pressure, sugar levels, and many others.

The issue of hypertension and diabetes is a serious matter in this country. However, there are basic lifestyle choices we can practice to avert them. However, Some of us have become like the ‘boiled frog’ in a pot of boiling water; we don’t care until we are hit with a health crisis before we take steps. At that time, it is too late.

The worse is that, everyone is battling something. I had to ask God a question recently around 2 am why his people are dying relatively younger in technological ages? On second thought, as I sit on my lonely bed philosophizing this, I remember the works of literature I read on how Asians drink their herbal teas to live long(, 2023; Sharma and Diwan, 2022; Ruan et al, 2013; CNN. Com, 2022; Pan et al. 2022).

We can incorporate their models into our lifestyle. We have one of the best herbal teas in the world. Hibiscus tea has been proven in both human and animal studies(Lima et al. 2022; Edo et al. 2023; Eliss et al. 2022; Jalalyazdi et al. 2019;, 2021; Etheridge and Derbyshire, 2020; Koch et al. 2020) to support hypertension, diabetes, and many more. I have written several articles on this plant. We can also live longer by drinking hibiscus tea(Koch et al. 2020).

Preventive medicine starts from our kitchen and the water we drink. We must all go green organic and add herbal teas to our diets. There is a need for the medical community to also collaborate with experts in the natural medicine community to see how to develop preventive medicine programs to help the public.

Preventive health programs are insufficient without incorporating scientific naturopathy. We can no longer underestimate the philosophy of natural medicine practitioners.

Besides, development has to be holistic. In this context, holistic development is multidimensional. It encompasses all aspects of life: spiritual, social, economic, political, cultural, and ethical.

From a holistic perspective, development is the liberation of man from his spiritual, socio-economic, and educational limitations (Déméro, 2007). In this way, the State and civil society (religious institutions, associations, organized groups in the country, etc.) should provide a framework for individuals to address their own needs toward a state of well-being where they can live in harmony with themselves, with God, with their fellow human beings, and with their environment without dying young.

Government, policymakers, development agencies, and politicians cannot look on when the health of the people is in crisis. They cannot look on when the people are dying young without asking questions and taking steps to address this.

In advanced countries, this is a public health concern, and scientific studies would be conducted to examine the problem and how to address it.

Hence, it is time for the government and all political parties to incorporate policies on preventative health in their manifestos. All political parties should incorporate experts in naturopathy and holistic health into their health committees. The days when health has to do with only mainstream practice are a thing of the past.

The philosophy of life must be oriented towards equality and equity. All men are equal. Therefore, they must be treated as such. No healthcare is superior to the other. No one is a custodian of medical knowledge. They all deserve the same treatment and respect. No individual is supposed to be superior to another based on class, colour, race, or social status.

The Bible formally declares that righteousness uplifts a nation (Proverbs 14:34). Therefore, the church must do its best to promote right and justice among the sons of the nation (Jeremiah 22:3; 15-17). The church must do everything as well to preach about healthy living now as God and Jesus Christ are practitioners and advocates of Natural living to improve health.

We need holistic health to enhance development in the healthcare sector. It is an approach to wellness that simultaneously addresses the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual components of health.

As a field of practice, holistic medicine draws from many disciplines, religions, and cultures to heal people, communities, and even the environment. It is time to take action to improve the health and life expectancy of the people and also acknowledge that medicine is as deep and diverse as life in the ocean. This is a collective one and all political parties should consider it in their manifesto. some of us will monitor this.

As I still philosophized, Exodus 15: 26 also sufficed when God warned Moses to tell his people as they migrated from Egypt to their chosen land:

“If you will obey me completely by doing what I consider right and by keeping my commands, I will not punish you with any of the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians. I am the LORD, the one who heals you.”

LORD, at this stage, Heal us! We are dying young, who cares?

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, an author, and a science writer. President, Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. Currently pursuing another PhD in Law and Development at the Institute Of Development And Technology Management (IDTM), Cape Coast. His research interest is medical negligence and how law can develop the healthcare sector. E. mail: [email protected] . for more.