Public health is about health, not medication


The concept of public health is not new. India has a long history of ensuring the health of populations. When the kings built water tanks, ponds, and wells, set up fruit orchards, encouraged the farmers and presented them with a wide variety of seeds brought from the lands conquered, set up educational institutions, and supported the culture of the land they were indulging in a public health exercise.

Ayurveda and naturopathy originated in India and were taught in its educational institutions. It was about teaching the population ways and means of countering challenges and staying healthy at physical and mental levels. Every family accepted this knowledge that was a combination of lifestyle measures, spiritual/ ethical norms, and use of nutritious food, herbs and spices. The senior members passed on the knowledge to the next generation. The agricultural fields, the village orchards, the backyard garden, and the kitchen spices were the pharmacy. Physical labour and sports energized the people. This was a very superior form of public health exercise.

India was a land of thirteen festivals in twelve seasons. This too was a public health exercise. The minds were concentrated on high ideals, the rituals prepared a bridge between different sections of the community, the festivals were a source of income for many, the requirement of flowers, herbs, roots, and leaves, as well as animal produce led to conservation of various species, and the happiness derived went a long way to ensure health.

During the time of the Buddha we come to know about a kingdom that neglected the accepted way of life. An epidemic appeared and many fell sick. The king had no other go but to remember an ayurvedic practitioner who was neglected. He had passed away but his son knew enough to set right things and the epidemic passed. This was a lesson for society and the Buddha ensured the teaching of ayurveda became popular. He was also known for reviving the herbal treatment for snake, scorpion and insect bites to protect monks who meditated in forests and caves.

The Mohenjo Daro and Harappa civilizations revealed the expertise people had about town planning and design. Safe water, sanitation and hygiene was immaculately ensured and the proximity of agricultural fields provided fresh and nutritious food. This is an excellent example of public health.

After the two world wars began the industrial revolution. The people were uprooted from their rural habitation and moved to ill maintained slums in urban areas where they served as workers. The terribly unhygienic conditions led to diseases that burdened people and mortality was high. It was the provision of clean water, nutritious food, better housing, sanitation and hygiene and town planning coupled with better working conditions and good salaries that saved the day. Diseases disappeared and mortality rates fell. This was a good public health exercise.

During the small pox epidemic Jenner came out with the vaccination which was an unholy mix. It aggravated the epidemic and mortality rates shot through the roof. It also introduced the dreaded syphilitic pox. The people resented and opposed it. Several places including Leicester in England refused the shots and adopted measures like fresh and nutritious food, clean water, better plumbing, town cleaning, and isolation and proper care of the victims. Not only did the cases of pox fall drastically, the mortality rates fell to almost zero. This showed the power of public health measures. The WHO too was forced to take up the measures as the success was undeniable.

In India there was a group of eminent doctors who were known as the public health doctors. They believed in the health of the public through established non medical measures. They were shocked by the extreme adverse effects of the small pox shots that led to widespread suffering and emergence of diseases ranging from tuberculosis to cancers. They proposed the Leicester model and alerted the politicians about the nature and composition of the shots.

Gandhiji came out strongly against the practice. Rajagopalachari publicly questioned the BCG shot and documented his concerns. This led to history's largest clinical trial known as the Chingleput Trial. The BCG shot was tested for 15 years and it emerged that not only was it O% effective, there were more tuberculosis cases among the vaccinated. However the pharma sector had entrenched itself and the shots continue to this day when we witness extremely difficult tuberculosis cases.

Public health soon became an exercise to market drugs and vaccines. In reality public health is about ensuring the basic determinants of health; nutrition, exercise, clean water, sanitation and hygiene, clean environment, nurturing nature, town planning, employment and income, education, and following moral and ethical principles that lead to a stress free life. The public health doctors mentioned earlier sought to establish this in India and thanks to their efforts we had a public health department. The current Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a public health exercise.

Medicalizing public health has led to the epidemic of chronic diseases we witness today. 70 years ago Aldous Huxley was alarmed and he noted, medical science has progressed to an extent that there are no healthy persons left. The fact is healthy persons do not ensure profits and income. They do not lead to increased GDP. They do not ensure the growth of the pharmaceutical industry that is currently the largest industry in the world.

Therefore we have mass exercises like the shots, deworming campaigns, random distribution of filaria medicines, that are unwarranted and make people pharma customers for life. The shots are well researched and nearly 1400 peer reviewed and published studies in the Pubmed database of the NIH link them to 404 diseases. If you examine that list you will find ALL the present day diseases present in it.

Any medical system must ensure the following;

  • Keeping the healthy at the peak of their health
  • Leading the unhealthy towards health
  • Curing the sick

The form of scientific medicine we witness today does none of the above. As Padmabhushan Dr B M Hegde points out in his lectures, the present system of medicine does the opposite.

As per research acute diseases are beneficial and protect against chronic diseases and cancers. But this research is neglected. The science of the microbiome and cellular health screams about the need for nutrition and detoxification. The MBBS doctors were mindful of the health of their subjects. They rarely prescribed medicines. They investigated the cause of disease and removed the irritating factors to ensure health and cures. They understood the value of acute diseases.

Public health is today neither about public nor about health. It ensures universal sickness. As per studies 95.4% of the world's population is sick and 54% of children suffer from chronic disease. Disease is the vital input for the medical industry to grow and profit. A healthy population is its worst nightmare.

It is up to the people to ensure their own health. Health is not rocket science. It is about common sense and adopting measures that do not cost the earth.

With health comes happiness and wealth. A healthy population automatically adopts moral and ethical principles and become a boon to earth. A healthy population shuns violence and embraces peace. A healthy population is mindful of nature as nature begets health and well being.

A healthy population leads to a healthy society that uplifts women, and takes care of the children and elderly.

The present day concept of public health is reflected in the state of the world today and the crumbling society, the horrendous violence and crimes that make headlines.

The pharmaceutical industry must be reigned in to establish normalcy in this world. People are needlessly suffering.