Gonzaga: Pinoy health crisis

Ecoviews and issues

FOR the “pumuluyo” who are often cash strapped, a doctor’s consultation is expensive, especially prescribed medications. The scarcity of competent doctors especially in rural areas is a real problem. The Philippine Health Statistics shows that there is only one doctor for every thousand Filipinos. Among poor Filipino families, getting sick can lead to serious consequences, even the loss of their livelihood base.

In Asia and other less industrialized regions of the world, the doctors are often confined in cities or more progressive provinces. Given this scenario, the sick cannot avail of appropriate medical care. Research on the movement of Filipino doctors shows that 70 percent of them are abroad: the U.S.A., Canada, Middle East, etc., 20 percent are in Manila, and other cities. Only ten percent are left in the countryside.

For the poor, hospitalization and mounting hospital bills may even lead to the suicide of the spouse left to cope with it. For instance, a bakery helper in Manila who could not pay his wife’s soaring hospital bills, hanged himself to death.

Social, cultural, and spiritual givens

Despite the inroads of computers and cellphones in hinterlands, up to now, village folks continue to believe in the action of the spirit world --, curses, witchcraft and other forms of folk beliefs. The folk mass does not match what they learn from formal education.

There are persistent traditional forms of healing perpetuated by “arbolarios.” Sadly, faith-healers are often driven more by hard economics than the passion for healing. Oriented to 21st-century capitalism, they focus less on herbs and medicinal plants more on “oracion” (prayer-chants), relics and fetish articles. But even with traditional medicine, there is still a high cost for the poor with fetish objects proffered to fight spirits causing illness.

Commonly, the poor have grown dependent on other people higher in socioeconomic status for their decision making. A good example are those who live in the hacienda or sugarcane plantation -- a system built around total dependence on the “amo”, the planter, from “cradle to death.”

The other type of poor depends on their parents, siblings or better off relations, and even politicians. Those who have no one to go to for cash assistance resort to “remedyo general” (i.e., a general remedy like pain killers and aspirin), or they turn to traditional doctors and “spiritists”.

If their condition worsens, and they are able to produce cash, they go to doctors as a last resort. Depending too much on others, they have lost trust in themselves and have acquired a learned sense of helplessness.

Still, sickness is a big problem for all social classes, worldwide. Healing and good health call for a holistic view: economic, political, social, cultural and spiritual. Health freedom, from chronic illness and harmful maintenance drugs, is attainable. We can be free of infirmities and be healthy if we pursue continuing research on natural and herbal cures, and if the economic, social-cultural and political givens for holistic cures are met.

Path to health empowerment

The way back to health and empowerment exists -- the elimination of all health-destroying causes that produced sickness. We have a choice. We can take responsibility for stopping lifestyle choices that we know are harmful, whether that be smoking, excessive alcohol intake or using drugs. Additionally, we need to begin to meet the real needs that such behavior masks. The journey back to health calls for a commitment to eat more nutritious food, sleep and exercise in balance more regularly, ensuring modest exposure to fresh air and sunlight. Personal hygiene, body cleansing and detoxifying, determining and paying attention to chemical and structural imbalances, including stress management are further important pathways to health. This prescription may seem overwhelming, yet as Dr. Chaitow avers, “...even if only some of it can be addressed, such as diet and relaxation, a remarkable phenomenon occurs as homeostasis begins to function more efficiently and health begins to return.”

For those who have been sick for some time, especially those suffering chronic illness, the help according to Dr. Chaitow, should come from the treatment that is most appropriate for the individual—alternative treatments designed to restore nutritional balance, or to remove toxic burdens in the body. This, in fact, is the plus factor in holistic medicine — the provision for the individual, a broad range of healthy treatment options. Though conventional medicine prescribes that your condition (e.g., diabetes or hypertension) is incurable, or that your only choice is “to live a life dependent on drugs with troublesome side effects”, there is hope for improving or reversing your condition.


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