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Retirement Planning – Health Management (I)

We have spent quite some time on financial matters in respect of retirement planning for the important role that finances play in all our lives.…

We have spent quite some time on financial matters in respect of retirement planning for the important role that finances play in all our lives. We also discussed the psychological realities of retirement for people in various business and working career stages and indeed in retirement itself, again for the important role that our minds, thoughts and feelings play in every situation, real or imaginary, we may find ourselves. Today, we will begin to take up how to manage our health prior to and in retirement without repeating ourselves on what we have already discussed.

Caveat: For the different individuals that we are, there are varying factors that can differently influence our health conditions. Whatever might be our individual contexts and ‘realities’, it is important that we work closely with our healthcare professionals to understand these factors and how we can generally help our situations. Hence, whatever we say here should be subordinated to the expert opionions and advisory of our doctors and other health services personnel that are aware of or can establish what our individual circumstances might be.

What is ‘Health’?: There are various definitions of health by different professionals and organisations around the world. According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” WHO takes the positions that the enjoyment of highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without regard to race, religion, political belief and social or economic condition. The Committee on Using Performance Monitoring to Improve Community Health, Institute of Medicine, US, defined health as “….. a state of well-being and the capability to function in the face of changing circumstances.” No matter the definition we chose to work with, health is about the positive vitality and wellbeing of an individual covering the physical, physiological and psychological compositions of our makeup that will allow for emotional stability, sound intellectual minds, and personal productivity through social and economic contributions.

Benefits of conscientious health management: The benefits of conscientious health management in all stages of our lives are are many. In our early years, being healthy is crucial to our emotional and physical well-being as well as the development of our intellectual potentials. The actions we take to be and remain healthy can save us money in the long run, sharpen our memory and cognition, provide us with more energy naturally, boost our mood, improve the quality of our skin and the functioning of our organs, help give us a good night sleep, extend our lifespan etc.

Our mental and physical health status influences our ability to live and work with others harmoniously. Our health is crucial to our ability to carry out our legitimate daily tasks, productivity at our places of work and business and contribution to our national economy. Consequently, our health is essential to our capacity to earn our livelihoods with the accompanying benefits for ourselves, our loved ones and communities.

Factors that affect our health as individuals and communities: We do not all need to be medical doctors and health professionals. But we can all get to know the little we should about what can help or hurt our health. A starting point, I think, is to know what factors influence and determine our health situations. After that we will explore what we can do to help our chances of being healthy.

Individual and community health are largely shaped by factors that we can group broadly as follows:

  1. Biology and genetics
  2. Health services
  3. The environment (physical, social and economic)
  4. Individual situation, behaviour and lifestyle

1-           Biology and Genetics: Our individual internal make up and functioning influences our health. These may partly be determined by our gender, age, genetic wiring and makeup, etc. This is the ‘nature’ part of who we may be. From a biological perspective, for instance, our physical and cognitive abilities can begin to show signs of decline as we age. On the other hand, genetic predispositions can contribute to a greater or lesser risks of particular health situations (such as breast cancer, cardiac disease, etc.) but not necessarily determine them with absolute certainty. This has led to interest in, any, linkages between genetics and behaviour, perhaps because of the greater degree of control we may have, at least for now, on the latter than the former. Similarly, understanding the ‘headsup’ that nature threw at us can be leveraged while the risks can be understood and mitigated.

2-           Health services: Individual and population health are affected by government and even corporate policies and actions. Specific policy measures that succeed in curbing tobacco and alcohol intake, for instance, would help improve population health. On the other hand, weak quality control and deterrence measures might lead to the availability of substandard medications  that can hurt the public.

The availability, affordability and quality of health services, whether private or public, affect the health of individuals in a society. Lack of availability due to, for instance, distance and/or patient density, will limit the extent to which even those that can afford the services can get required medical attention. On the other hand, even where there services are available and of high quality but are not affordable to a majority, the overall health situation of the population will suffer. Persons without the financial capacity or requisite health insurance are known to either not participate in preventative care or delay required medical treatment. At the end, all barriers to easy access to quality and affordable health services would lead to unmet health needs, delays in receiving required care, inability to get preventative health services, increased preventable hospitalisations, etc.

We will continue next week on the other health factors listed above.


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