The human race has managed to remain at the command center of the food chain, not by giving in to fear or doubt, but by showing bravery and exhibiting a knack for survival. People have displayed great feats of strength and intelligence and this has helped perpetuate the species as a whole. Unfortunately this trait has also made it such that humanity tends to only address situations that threaten survival and give the greatest discomfort, pain being one of those things. Health wise this is a precarious position humanity holds as it has led to many a life lost to illnesses that are quiescent but fatal.
Illnesses like hypertension (elevated blood pressure) are what are known as the silent killers, diseases that only begin to manifest when it is too late. These diseases have been on the rise since the advent of fast foods and a sedentary lifestyle. They claim more lives each year than AIDS, yet people are more concerned with the latter, and give slightly more attention to the former as they do the common cold. The fact that symptoms begin to manifest only when one is about to die means that people are unaware they have this disease until they are halfway dead. These diseases do not elicit pain and therefore they are not registered and dealt with early enough. As Walter Ganong wrote, pain is the main reason people seek medical advice. Pain is the one thing that will drive almost anyone to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, pain usually means that the problem has advanced to a stage that is difficult, if not impossible, to fix. An example can be given of cancer which only starts to be painful when it has spread excessively.
Society has had a role in the mindsets harbored by many. It is socially known that men are supposed to be the stronger of our species and as such they are not meant to show emotion or reveal if they have discomfort. They are meant to “bear it like a man”. Grownups as well should not whine about a little pain or an inconspicuous lump. That is the behavior children exhibit. As long as one can walk then one is okay. This has led to some detrimental consequences. It has been proven that the most prevalent reason a man visits a physician is because they are experiencing extreme pain or they are having sexual difficulties. With these being the only red flags that will be noticed, it is clear that many lives can easily be lost to covert ailments.
This mindset has spread so far that it has become almost impossible to rectify, especially in the Zimbabwean culture. It is being exacerbated by the lack of finances and a poor economic situation. When asked why they took so long to go to a hospital, many patients say they did not have the money for transport or the steep consultation fees. The lack of medication in all but the most expensive pharmacies also worsens the situation. People would rather resort to staying at home than seeking out medical help.
The entirety of this article is to highlight the fact that pain should not be the only indicator of illness that people should heed. There is so much that can be done to ensure that one’s health is kept at its pink. It should become a habit in our culture to seek medical help not just to get treated, but also just to get regular checkups and screenings. Women should engage in cancer screenings at least once a year. At the first sign of an irregularity, people should take the necessary steps to ensure they are still well of body and mind. When pregnant, let every woman sign up for antenatal care. Visit the dentist at least twice a year. The entire family should be signed up for medical aid. Finally, let all be tested for HIV/AIDS.
In conclusion, though culture and society have dictated that being tough ensures survival, let humanity also pick up on being cautious and ready for any eventuality. Let there be preservation of life. Let us not lose our lives to things that could easily be rectified.
By: Kudzai Chinyanganya