Health vs. Wealth



A couple of months ago, when enhanced community quarantine was eased to general community quarantine, then there were different variations of modified and extreme, the Filipino nation, despite scientific statistical analysis, had high hopes on the advent of some sort of normalcy; whether it be old or new, as long as it’s normal. Now, as our neighboring Southeast Asian nations has made dramatic moves in easing up restrictions. Our nation’s capital is in reversion of restriction. That makes us who live in the province wonder if we would follow down that road. Oh well…

I remember a class before elementary school children. As I was going through a text, I passed through the word, “health”. Suddenly, it occurred to me to confirm if the children understands the concept of that word in English, so I quickly paused to ask, “Aram nindo kung ano ang health?”. Immediately an attentive pupil responded, “wealth”. An adult nearby had to restrain laughter. Could you blame the kid? The aphorism, “Health is Wealth” has been long ubiquitous that some children must have thought that “wealth” is the definition of “health”. Who would ever thought that time would come that an individual, communities, nations, the whole world would be torn between the two.

On one corner, health is the clear priority between the two. Recently, doctors and nurses have pleaded for the public to stay home. More recently, the President finally caved in. The arguments sounds basic and elementary that one simply has to agree. Even Abraham Maslow’s humanistic hierarchy of needs would support that physiological needs form the foundation of every other need on top of it. I heard a medical professional emotionally ranting on national TV on how the economy would be useless when we’re all dying. One can’t argue with the point made there. If we bring economy to its simplest form of going out to grow crops to sell it on the market, it could only be accomplished if the agents of this industry begin with basic resource of good health. It is health which is the primary means by which man rises up to engage in trade and acquire wealth. “Unless you are starting out with a trust fund, it takes a lot of hard work to build wealth. If you are spending a lot of time and energy managing a chronic illness, or even the effects of stress on your body and mind, you are not able to be fully committed to achieving other goals in life.” (https://wealthynickel.com/)

On the other corner is the requisite of wealth or financial resources to preserve and protect health. The healthy merchant became such because at the beginning, he received nourishment acquired with some form of currency. The scarcity of resources decreases the probability of ensuring the achievement of optimum health. You have to admit it. If you really want good nutrition, it can be attained with a price, a financial price. There’s a reason why malnutrition usually occurs in impoverished third world countries. While obesity has high occurrence in prosperous nations, there is definitely low incidence of undernourishment and certainly better opportunities for sustenance and health. According to research, “the greater one’s income, the lower is one’ likelihood of disease and premature death.” “Middle class citizens are healthier than those living in or near poverty; but they are less healthy than those living in the upper class.” “People with lower incomes report poorer health and have a higher risk of disease.” “Poorer adults are almost 5 times likely to report fair or poor health than those with higher income.” (https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/49116/2000178-How-are-Income-and-Wealth-Linked-to-Health-and-Longevity.pdf)

So, if you really want to be healthy, you have to have some wealth.

Now, I’m even more torn than when I was when I started writing this article. Generally, no one would want to contract any virus, Covid-19 or otherwise. At the simplest level, any same person would not want to get sick. Although it is arguable whether many Filipinos truly grasp in comprehension the threat of the virus, we’re still presuming no one wants to get it. On the other hand, being under lockdown has cost the supply of basic resources for people’s health, not only physically, but also psychologically, socially and emotionally. “Experts say that by acting quickly and by drawing on well-established systems in place, health departments of Southeast Asian nations have avoided the explosion of the pandemic experienced elsewhere.” (theguardian.com) Sadly, that “elsewhere” includes the Philippines. According to experts, one solution is acting quickly. Have we acted quickly? Another solution is well established systems of health departments. Do we have those? If indeed those are the solutions, sadly, we can’t do that overnight.

“You shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers…” Exodus 18:21