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The first aspirants for fitness and health were the younger lot with gyms springing up all over the country, but it is gratifying to note that today, most people in the country, are aspiring to a level of fitness that possibly eluded those of a previous generation

There was a time many of us would remember in our country when one only thought about health at times of sickness. A headache or cold was ignored with the oft-quoted belief that medication would cure a cold in seven days, while leaving it alone would get us back to normalcy in a week.

A visit to the doctor in small towns in the fifties and sixties could often result in a prescription that only the compounder would understand and one would go home with various powders and tonics that could neither be questioned nor challenged.

Compare this with the litigious societies of the West where it is the citizen’s right to understand every nuance of the diagnosis and treatment and any wrong course of medical action could result in a malpractice suit. In India, we have approached medical rights in a very Laissez-faire manner for decades, it is only in the last decade, and more that health awareness has come to the country.

The need for fitness probably started, as many good and bad practices begin in this country with the film industry. In Bollywood, it was the “size zero” of Kareena Kapoor and the six-pack flaunting of Hritik Roshan and then Salman Khan that set aspirations soaring among youth and even in the South, the era of plump stars gave way to fitter, if not substantially leaner youth icons.

Naturally, the first aspirants for fitness and health were the younger lot with gyms springing up all over the country, but it is gratifying to note that today, most people in the country, from children to seniors, are aspiring to a level of fitness that possibly eluded those of a previous generation.

The Governments of the day have also realized that the health of citizens cannot be compromised and the Ayushman Bharat National Health Mission is expected to impact 300 million people in the country once it is fully rolled out.

The Delhi Government has been providing accessible and quality healthcare services through primary, secondary and tertiary facilities, out of which the primary care is delivered through dispensaries; secondary health care delivered through multi-specialty hospitals and tertiary health care services through super-specialty hospitals. These health facilities cater to the needs of not only the population of Delhi but also the migratory and floating population from neighborhood states, which constituted considerable patient load. There has been a paradigm shift in the reorganizing of health care services of Delhi and the following fourtier health care delivery system has been created.

  • Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinic – for primary health care.
  • Multi-Specialty Poly Clinic – for secondary health care in the form of OPD consultation by specialist doctors including diagnostics.
  • Multi-Specialty Hospital – for IPD care (earlier called Secondary Level Hospital)
  • Super-Specialty Hospital (earlier called Tertiary Level Hospital).

If this exemplary model is implemented in a large city like Delhi and envisaged at a national scale, it would result in the world’s most ambitious healthcare delivery program. There is no reason why not every city and town in the country can make this happen.

In this context, the work of the Senior Citizens Association in the small town of Puducherry under the leadership of S.V. Iyer, a former All India Radio employee has been truly exemplary. Multiple health awareness camps and diagnostic clinics have ensured that every citizen, irrespective of age or social strata have awareness of their basic health needs and can access both advice and in many cases primary treatment for their ailments.

‘Let us collaborate with well-meaning non-profit agencies and hospitals, which focus on providing high-quality medical services’

Senior citizens in our country no longer have the luxury of somehow keeping their health intact until retirement in the hope that their children would take care of them in their autumn years. With more and more young people opting to move out of their home towns and sometimes even out of their home countries in their search for successful careers, senior citizens quite often have to fend for themselves and take responsibility for their own health, well into their sixties and seventies and beyond.

In addition to this, there is the reality that with increased health consciousness and increasing life expectancy thanks to better living and working conditions in every part of the country, citizens must attempt to not only stay alive but also stay healthy to have a happy retired life.

Famous Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari has said that humans will continue to have a pursuit of immortality as well as lifelong happiness and with newer technologies and newer aspirations coming to the fore, every citizen must plan to keep their health and their zest for new experiences and new learning much into their seventies and eighties.

While the responsibility for providing health services will continue to be primarily with the Government, let us all as caring and responsible citizens take personal responsibility for our own health. Let us also collaborate with well-meaning non-profit agencies as well as hospitals, which genuinely focus on providing high-quality medical services, and build a country where all of us can look forward to ageing gracefully with as much health and fitness that we aspire to have. Let us march towards a better and happier India.