In a year that has seen the topic of health catapult to the forefront of government policy, media, and (virtual) family dinner conversations, many of us have undoubtedly explored the concept of health more closely.
What is health? The concept of health is constantly changing, and while there are many general notions, we can all learn a lot about health when we examine this important topic from a different lens. NATIONAL Toronto’s Healthcare team decided to mark World Health Day (April 7) by reflecting and sharing their thoughts on what health means to them.
The “gift” that is health
Growing up in the Philippines, where there's a mix of public and private care, I was always told that you could be one illness away from bankruptcy. Since moving to Canada, I’ve witnessed the people I love receive the best care possible without experiencing the crushing fear of medical bills, and I can honestly say that health and the care needed to keep us healthy is a gift we should never take for granted.
Access to world-class care
In my 20s, health was centred on going to the gym or hot yoga classes, drinking smoothies and getting enough sleep at night. However, once I hit my 30s, got married, and started thinking about having a baby, my perspective changed. My pregnancy experience was eye-opening as it was the first time I felt dependent on—and grateful for—the Canadian healthcare system. Across the globe, there are still unacceptably high maternal mortality rates. According to the WHO, every day, 810 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with 94% of maternal deaths sadly occurring in low- and middle-income countries. While there is more work to be done in rural and remote regions, this is a reminder of how lucky we are in Canada to have access to world-class obstetrical care.
Equity in health
To me, health means that everyone has equal access to the resources they need to live their own version of their “best lives.” Health means something different to everyone. By ensuring equitable access to mental, physical and emotional support tools, individuals can define their own version of health and focus on their own unique needs that will continue to keep them healthy now and into the future.
Mental and social wellbeing
Along with just about everyone else in the past year, my focus on health has shifted since our day-to-day life changed overnight. When the pandemic and working from home were new, my definition of health was masks, gloves, and all the equipment-free YouTube workouts I could find. As the months have gone on and the effects on my mental and social wellbeing come into focus, I find myself thinking more about “ways to connect,” to use an over-used phrase. Sure, there have been more glasses of wine over Zoom, but it’s also finding a new park where myself and others can socialize safely, sending more cards, mailing more gifts, and certainly going for more walks to catch up. Now more than ever, I realize the positive effect these little interactions have on my health.
In the past year, I learned that there are many connectors to health. On some days, health for me has meant eating that “unhealthy” half-pint of vanilla ice cream because an occasional treat is good medicine for the soul. On other days, health meant protecting my energy by tuning out of mainstream news and social media for a few hours when it's all negative highlights that could send you down a rabbit hole of fear and anxiety.
Recently, health has also meant taking time to go on a walk with my toddler, jumping in muddy puddles along the way that incite the broad smiles and mutual happy hormones.
Real health conversations
Health and our Canadian healthcare system have been put in the spotlight over the past year like it never has before. The pandemic demonstrated just how vital an efficient healthcare system and access to medicines and appropriate services are to everyone, especially for minority communities across this country. Health, to me, is something we can’t take for granted; it’s a right, not a privilege—so let’s have the real conversations that will change things for those that need it the most.
——— Titilayo Ajobse is a former Manager at NATIONAL Public Relations