Introducing “Health and Well-Being”

On August 13, I introduced the new Category, “Health and Well-Being” to “baltimoreblackwoman.” It is an issue that has been on my mind for some time, but it just crystallized over the last few days, in part because of recent changes in my health status [see “I Am My Father’s Daughter—Not Always for the Best”], but also because I’ve always had an interest and a personal stake in such matters, as you will see in future posts.

For now, let me just say that my perspective on health and well-being comes from a lifetime of: (1) being treated by medical professionals for conditions both mundane and odd; (2) having an “inordinate” interest in medicine, both because of my experiences and because I dreamed of being a doctor or psychiatrist when I was a child; and (3) working (I’m now retired) as a STEM copy editor—in my mind, it was the next best thing to being a doctor.

I probably know just enough about medicine to be dangerous!

Seriously, though: In my lifetime, I have seen enough changes in how health is perceived and in how healthcare is delivered (from having a doctor who made house calls when I was a kid to having to now see specialists for various conditions) that I have developed my own ideas about what constitutes health and well-being, and they are not as lofty, noble, or didactic as official definitions tend to be.

The World Health Organization, for example, defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” [Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948].

In my view, “complete…well-being” is not possible! We are, after all, mortal humans—not gods. Each of us has an “expiration date” (which is how “death” was described to a humanoid robot in the latest episode of Extant, which I have been watching with fascination this summer). Like it, or not, our physical bodies are going to wear out and die, eventually! Even with the marvels of modern medical technology, diets, exercise, 8 hours of sleep on the perfect bed, moderation in all things, etc., etc., not one of us is going to make it out of here, alive.

And who gets to decide what “complete” well-being is? Is it society? Or the medical profession? Or a governmental body?

Now, before you start writing back to me that I sound like some anti-regulatory nutcase (as in “The govmint’s got no right to tell me my chile cain’t be obese no more”), let me just say that I do believe that regulations and rules and guidelines are essential to giving every human being something better to strive for. But no one on this earth is perfect.

Furthermore, you will notice that I have a jaded opinion about pharmaceuticals. In my mind, the pharmaceutical industry is hell-bent on making every human being dependent on one drug or another, just to make money—to the point where these snake-oil salesmen are inventing diseases that make no sense to me! Who ever heard of “OAB” (overactive bladder) or “24” (a purported circadian rhythm disorder of blind people) before the drug makers started peddling medicines for them on television?

Every time I see the “24” commercials, I yell back at the TV: “Wouldn’t an alarm clock work just as well as a pill to regulate circadian rhythm in a blind person???”

Finally, in this new age of “ask your doctor if…,” I find myself diagnosing my own illnesses—and pretty accurately, I might add—before I ever make it to the doctor’s office. So what do I need the doctor for? And why am I forking over so much money to be told what I already know?

This “introduction” is a bit cheeky, I know. But what I really hope to bring to this Health and Well-Being section is a little bit of common sense, a dash of skepticism, and a “healthy” dose of insight and understanding, for myself as well as for the reader, as I navigate through my “Golden” years.

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