In eastern cultures, people prevent health issues through lifestyle choices like yoga and low-cholesterol diets. In the west, attitudes to health are less proactive. Rather than letting risks become issues, surely the kinder approach would be to nip these problems in the bud?
“There is a speed at which prescription drugs are prescribed, however many health issues can be resolved through the correct vitamin intake, healthy food or even time and space outside," says Nahla, Sunshine People founder. "We should not only consider what we fuel our bodies with but also our minds before we turn to modern medicine. This ultimately starts with being kind to ourselves.”
One way that healthcare can move from reactive to proactive is to consider lifestyle factors which make one person’s experience of a health condition entirely different from someone else’s. Looking at overall lifestyles in advance of health complication is much more patient-centric, and changes discussions around good health for the better.
Take this scenario. Ben is an elderly man who lives alone. He has a serious fall and shatters his hip bone. After an operation to replace the hipbone, Ben is visited regularly by a nurse. The nurse realises that Ben’s home is difficult to navigate, with lots of stairs and clutter.
If Ben had been visited by a nurse prior to the fall, the nurse would have carried out a risk assessment of Ben’s home and suggested modifications to stop any incidents. All of this would have been done, presumably, with Ben’s permission. In any case, if Ben had not consented to the home visit, he would be more aware of his deteriorating mobility and perhaps take greater care around the home.
“By considering every human as unique with their own needs, we can improve the wellbeing of everyone,” says Nahla.
A pre-emptive, person-centred approach can also be applied to mental health treatments, which are only offered once a patient has reached (or failed to reach) a certain threshold. Each year, Americans spend over $200bn on mental health treatments – why not encourage good mental wellness from an early age, to help people understand and find strategies for mental challenges?
"We should not only consider what we fuel our bodies with but also our minds before we turn to modern medicine."
Fortunately, healthcare is shifting from ‘let’s fix this’ to ‘let’s stop this in the first place’. The NHS has recognised the importance of working with innovative health and social care companies (often startups) which aim to improve peoples’ quality of life through discrete devices and notification systems. For example, an elderly person like Ben could be given a small personal alarm to press if they feel unsteady on their feet or have a fall, so help arrives quickly and future incidents are avoided.
"Healthcare needs to be personal and proactive."
Catching an underlying condition early can make all the difference and avoid more serious problems later down the line, whether that be a mental or a physical difficulty.
“The importance of person focused care is clear, and can help to encourage kindness in healthcare as an industry,” says Nahla. "Healthcare needs to be personal and proactive."