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16.04.2008 Feature Article

Health and medical checks

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Despite the fact that good health is great wealth, not everyone has the opportunity and resources to undergo the processes of obtaining good health. No one wishes to be struck down by a disease, he or she would have been able to prevent, through a medical check up. It is very unfortunate that due to the low standard of living, in many parts of the world, the relevance of medical check ups for the human body, every now and then, is fading away.

Medical checks

The Merriem-Webster Dictionary defines medical check up, as a general physical examination of the body, or a thorough physical examination, including a variety of tests, depending on the age and sex and health of the person.

Annual medical check-ups must become a ritual for people in order to know one's health status, just as is done in many companies for many executives. Despite the fact that one might feel healthy, it is necessary for one to go for a medical check up, in order to be sure one does not have any hidden illness, and if so, could be treated before it is too late.

Dr. Stephen Boadu, a Gynecologist at the Cocoa Processing Company (CPC) Hospital in Tema, says a medical check up is important, depending on the nature of one's body system, sex or age group. The pregnant woman must make it a routine of always visiting the hospital for a safe delivery. Aged people ought to go for check ups, to diagnose diseases associated with old age, such as hypertension and menopause, so as to learn a new way of living, and new eating habits.

Little children must be well taken care of medically, and have to be immunized against the child-killer diseases, in order not to be infected, which might lead to their premature death. According to Dr. Boadu it is important for one to go for a medical check up, especially when one recognizes the symptoms of a disease, and not to wait till the disease is severe.

African poverty: a hindrance to medical check ups

Bad medical health is a situation associated with the African continent, due to the existing economic hardships. Africa is one of the continents in the world, considered to be the poorest, and also having a very low standard of living. The economic hardship in Africa is very severe that economists, who sometimes use a country's per capita gross domestic product, and the value of all the goods and services it produces, as an indicator of quality of life, rated certain parts of Africa as very below the standard quality of life.

The United Nations (UN) also rated the level of poverty in Africa, in an annual “Human Development Index”, which assigns a score to each nation, based on three broad sets of indicators: health and longevity, knowledge and education, and standard of living, measured by purchasing power.

By these measures, the UN described Niger, in West Africa, as the worst place to live in the world, because while life expectancy there is 44.6 years, 71 per cent of adults are illiterate, and 79 per cent of children don't attend school.

Countries without the means to access adequate food end up with starvation, leading to the death of many of its citizens, especially women and children. According to inquiries made by the UN, 25,000 lives are lost everyday from hunger and poverty. Sometimes a bad case, diarrhoea leads to death, because of weakness caused by hunger. More than 800 million people know what it feels like to go to bed hungry, with most of them being women and children. Due to the need for good food for the human system always, food malnutrition causes more than half of all child deaths, in Africa.

Poverty causes many families to spend over 70% of their income on food, whereas an average American family spends just over 10% of their income. Additionally more than 100 million children are stunted physically and mentally, from malnutrition. The research continues that families trying to survive in such extreme poverty, must often go without the food they need, and must make agonizing choices, between adequately feeding their children, or buying medicine, when they are sick, or sending them to school.

A billion malnourished people, mostly women and children, are losing their health and lives, their potential for prosperity, and their hope for a better future.

If that be the case in Africa, then people not giving much attention to their health is explanatory, and that the possibility of a medical check up crossing one's mind, is very rare. People only live with the thought of having money for their daily bread, and not for medical check ups, which they think is a waste of money. It will not be surprising to know that in some existing communities, the people do not have health centers or hospitals to even go for treatment, when they are sick, more or less go for medical check ups.

The situation in Ghana

Ghana, which is also part of Africa, also faces the same economics hardships, in some of its cities and towns. However for a country to move forward, in terms of labour and finance, there is the need for the citizens to be of good health. The government recognising the relevance of good health brought about the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). This health scheme is purposed to give free health care for people, especially those without the financial means. To get access to it, one only has to register to obtain an ID card, and take it along anytime they attend hospital.

The existence of this scheme has enabled people access medical attention whenever they want. In certain instances, medical personal, through the Ghana Health Service (GHS), go from community to community, to educate people on the existence of certain diseases. They sometimes go further to educate them on how best they can prevent diseases from affecting them, through medical check ups.

If that be the case, why do people refuse to go for medical check ups? Considering the attitude of Ghanaians to the importance of medical check ups, it is easy to conclude that, the refusal of people to go for medical checks, up apart from poverty, will be the habit of procrastination, and laziness on the part of people.

Why do people fail to go for medical check ups?

Apart from poverty, which is one of the main factors which discourages people from going for medical check ups, ignorance is another factor. In many parts of Africa and Ghana, the relevance of medical check ups is not something that recognition is given to. It is very pitiable to come to the realization that, an individual has not attended medical check ups for half a decade, simply because they think they feel very healthy. Most often, people into business, especially market women, get so much involved that they totally ignore their health status, and refuse to go for medical check ups, till they are struck down by disease.

People are sometimes willing to attend check ups when the disease surfaces, do not have the facilities for diagnosing in their countries. These people have no option than to travel to the west, just for a medical check up. However, for those who are very poor, and cannot afford this, turn to appealing for funds.

Relevance of medical check ups

A Medical check up is very important for the human system, since it helps detect hidden illnesses in the body, which can be treated early, before is too late. This saves one from having to go through the pains associated with the disease, and also no time is wasted on the sick bed, since the disease will be detected on time, and treatment effected early.

Regular check ups also helps one to know his or her status with an illness. For instance the dreadful disease HIV\AIDS, which normally is spread through unprotected sex, can be transmitted to others if the affected one is ignorant about his/her status. If that be the case, one can only imagine how many people will be infected in Ghana, which according to research, 200 people are infected everyday, and about 170,000 are now orphans, due to the death of their parents through HIV/AIDS. Communicable diseases like tuberculosis, if not detected early, could spread, easily causing an epidemic.

Human health is very important, so care has to be taken by people in order to have citizens and generations of strong and healthy people, so as to have a good labour force in the country.

Helena Selby
Helena Selby, © 2008

The author has 3 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: HelenaSelby

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