As COVID-19 sets in as a reality for much of our current world, we are faced with an economy that is crumbling due to so many people unable to attend to work because of the current government restrictions.
COVID-19 as a virus certainly has its serious implications on health globally and has brought the world to a grinding halt. People have been strongly driven by fear to raid supermarkets, stockpile foods and products and take serious measures to look after themselves and their loved ones, remaining at home and sticking to ‘social distancing’ rules.
Current statistics indicate that the number of people affected is 1.2 million and 62,000 have already deceased from this global epidemic as of the 5th of April 2020. These numbers represent someone’s mother, father, son, daughter… etc. We are certainly faced with a viral disease that people are seeking to protect themselves from, and this is understandable and much warranted especially so for the subset of our population that is at significant risk (elderly, co-morbidities, immune-compromised etc).
But is there something we are missing here with the big picture? When we look at health statistics globally, we can see high numbers of people dying each year from various conditions:
Heart disease – 17 million / year
Cancer – 9.6 million / year
Diabetes – 1.5 million / year
Violence – 1.6 million / year
These numbers are significantly higher than the deaths currently from COVID-19. Although COVID-19 is in its early phases and the worldwide toll on lives remains to be seen, it is hard to imagine that it will come anywhere close to taking the number of lives lost to heart disease or cancer alone. I repeat these are the numbers of deaths per year. from these conditions for the last several decades. And these numbers are not just numbers, again they represent people yet these deaths from heart disease, cancer, diabetes and/or domestic violence go largely un-noticed by the media and the public. Have we become desensitised to these figures? I ask: "Why has the world not come to a grinding halt for these deaths? Each year? And why are not the public and the government not activating to cease all contributing factors to these conditions and supporting and demanding that the public cooperate in eradicating these very conditions." So much of the contributing factors for these conditions could be addressed, yet very few if any are taking the same immediacy of action.
In relation to heart disease, cancer and diabetes, this would of course mean lifestyle changes such as eating more vegetables, cutting back on junk foods and sugar, increasing exercise. But we cannot deny the underlying factor of 'dis-ease' in our society being that of a community that is disconnected and lost requiring a much needed re-connection.
But stepping away from work, retreating at home and hoarding up on toilet paper is perhaps easier to do than the above measures. Meanwhile the same contributing factors for heart disease, diabetes and domestic violence continue to spew forth more deaths from these very conditions during this time that everyone is retreating at home to stay safe from COVID-19. Is this a convenient retreat in some regards for some, and if so, and what responsibility are we really avoiding?
Current regulations and shutting down businesses and communities in order to safeguard people during the COVID-19 outbreak is not what is argued here. What is presented here is the question of why do we find it so hard to activate changes to look after ourselves and our own health and well-being (in terms of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, domestic violence etc)? If we applied the same diligence to addressing heart disease alone as we have in reacting to COVID-19, you could imagine the whole world grinding to a halt until such time that we together worked out what is the cause and then acted to significantly reduce the number of cases. And knowing that lifestyle changes such as nutrition, exercise as well as a community connection are here paramount for conditions such as a heart disease, there is ample evidence from various sources including the Roseto study that would support us with making these changes.
In consideration of this,
perhaps the government mandate would be:
Wash your hands for 30 seconds,
eat your vegetables,
cut back on sugar and alcohol
deeply connect with those around you.