Attaining a certain status in life which enables one to lead a comfortable lifestyle should not mean that one should neglect routine exercise and indulge in eating wrong food stuffs that would result in health complications such as obesity, diabetes and many other non communicable diseases.
Chikwekele was a young man who grew up in a medium density suburb. Having been empowered through primary and secondary school and qualified to university level, he got a degree in economics and quickly got a job in one of the banks as an economist. Chikwekele, who at graduation day weighed 65kg, adopted a new lifestyle due to the power of his new pocket. He could eat and drink anything, and in no time catapulted himself to a 120kg. He slowly became hypertensive, diabetic and shortly had renal failure. And before this brilliant young man could reach 30, Zambia had lost a young economist.
Now, it is important to note that if Chikwekele had the knowledge that the power of his pocket came with responsibility, if he had known that a daily consumption of greens such as chibwabwa is better than that of pork and beef, if he had known that driving daily to the supermarket was his own downfall, he could have been walking daily and exercising daily and through that physical activity and good nutrition, he could have avoided his non communicable diseases.
Who wants a patient in hospital with myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack? Why not have strong family health centered services where you deliver information to families on what should be cooked and consumed? Why won’t we stop manufacturing non communicable diseases in our kitchens? Why won’t we emphasize on the importance of vegetables, good nutrition? Why won’t we emphasize on the need for routine physical exercise?
Chikwekele would say, “I used to walk every day from Chelston to Munali, so I am done with the syllabus of walking, I did my part.” So to move from his Kabulonga home to any nearby supermarket, he always used to drive. How many Chikwekeles do we have today? It’s my hope that you will buy into this new health paradigm shift of ensuring that the interface with the health sector begins right in our homes, in our communities; embarking on routine exercise and ensuring a healthy eating lifestyle.
Dr Chitalu Chilufya is Zambia’s Minister of Health.