Growing up, our parents were always there to tell us to eat our fruits and veggies, take our chewable vitamins every morning, and of course, to wash up before meals and after using the facilities. But what if they didn’t tell us to take care of ourselves, simple because they were never taught to do so?
What if we didn’t have the same lifestyle - of regarding personal hygiene, of (trying) to consume the correct amounts of fruits and vegetables, of making sure we are carrying out a healthy life?
For billions of people living in the developing world, this is their reality. Many do not have access to clean water or proper sanitation; their diets are ones of subsistence and survival, not of nutrition. This leads them to living very unhealthy lives, lives that are often cut short due to diseases and malnutrition that are obsolete in countries such as Canada.
This is an unfortunate reality, but if people in the developing world were merely provided with these necessities, would they use them? Would they be aware of the benefits of a healthy diet or proper sanitation? These are questions that individuals working in the field of global health grapple with. In my opinion, one of the ways to address the root causes of this issue is through health education and promotion.
Think of it this way- if a development NGO were to go into a rural community and provide latrines (washroom facilities) but did not take the time to educate the people about the benefits of using the latrine, how to maintain the latrine and even how it can be integrated into the lifestyle and culture of the people, would the community use and maintain them? It is this education that is absolutely crucial to ensure that health and sanitation projects implemented in the developing world are sustainable for the community.
Health promotion is something that is also highly important to practice here in Canada. Although it is integrated into our culture and education, promoting healthy living to ourselves and the ones we love ensures that it remains an educational imperative.
So next time you find yourself telling someone to eat healthy or quit smoking or promoting wellness in some way shape or form, be sure to tell them why. Although many of us know the answers already, it doesn’t hurt to remind each other every once in awhile and work together for a healthier world.