What disease do you think you are at higher risk of if your doctor tells you, “You have a 1 in 10 chance of having Disease A, and 1 in 20 chance of having Disease B in the next 10 years”? Even though the correct answer is Disease A, a study showed that people with poor health literacy were more likely to pick Disease B simply because 20 is greater than 10.

Our physical well-being, synonymous with physical health, is understandably the most sought-after of all the dimensions of wellness for apparent reasons. Physical fitness is critical to any individual as it borders on discomfort, inconvenience, pain, hindrance, communicable tendencies, and death.

Ironically, as scary as it seems, physical well-being is the only one with the highest level of personal control. For example, cardiovascular diseases, often labeled as lifestyle diseases, are the leading cause of death by non-communicable diseases globally. So, if the significant determinants of these diseases are behavioural, it means the number of deaths caused by them can be reduced or avoided. One can only begin to imagine what we are doing to ourselves to be in this type of situation in the first place.

Gone are the days when we blame health outcomes on genetics and access to quality healthcare systems alone. Records are beginning to show that the most significant chunk of healthcare resources are allocated to treat lifestyle-related conditions in high-income countries. These countries have access to state-of-the-art health infrastructure, cutting-edge technologies, and expertise. However, what is more shocking is that low-middle income countries are likewise bedeviled with this same crisis by being responsible for over three-quarters of the deaths from non-communicable lifestyle diseases globally.

As behavioural health determinants overtly threaten world health, Nigeria’s population health mirrors its effect, as evidently shown by the average life expectancy rate of 55 years, according to macrotrends. With over 70 percent cause of deaths in the nation being preventable, we all need to be more deliberate when it comes to our health and well-being.

Adopting an upstream approach to healthcare would be a step in the right direction in this new year, with health promotion at the forefront to achieve population health. The three fundamental focus areas to achieve this would be healthy nutrition/diet, good habit formation, and health literacy. Our ability to covet western habits without the capability to cater to the health outcome always reminds me of a proverbial saying. “He who doesn’t have a mother should avoid actions/inactions that may lead to back injuries or wounds.”

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If you do not have the support structure or system, don’t venture into whatever those who do try.

Our physical well-being is the foundation for all other dimensions of well-being; its non-existence equally means the non-existence of others, let alone thriving or experiencing a balance. If it’s that serious, then maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as forming great healthy habits while doing away with harmful ones, often sounds like a great plan. As grownups, there are fundamental questions we need to constantly ask ourselves regarding our physical health and that of our wards. Such questions include but are not limited to how we deliberately maintain a healthy lifestyle vis-à-vis our behavioural health. Do we smoke, engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners, drink alcohol excessively, or use/abuse drugs? How do we keep fit daily? Is it with regular exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep hygiene, and nutritional checks? How do we take care of ourselves when sick? Do we self-medicate or talk to certified medical practitioners? Do we keep doctor’s appointments for checkups even when not sick? Are we up to date with our immunizations and that of our children or wards?

Ultimately, there is a lot to be done regarding health education to achieve health literacy in Nigeria. Our health education strategies must include targeted health and wellness promotions developed and expressed in almost all languages in the country for effectiveness. Our health bodies need to pay more attention to context, values, beliefs, attitudes, knowledge types, time, space, and economic factors whenever health campaigns are being prepared and rolled out.

A body of evidence has shown that those with no or low levels of education are more likely to die young with an increased risk of poor health throughout their lifetime. Health education, or health literacy, would go a long way in reducing susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases and unhealthy habit formation and avoiding primary preventive care such as immunization.

Every day, we make decisions through choices that can lead to poor health or diseases based on our knowledge or belief. Since these knowledge /beliefs depend on levels of exposure through our communities, schools, families, or religious backgrounds, which is learning, improved health status with behavioural changes are likewise achievable with effective health education.

Olayinka Opaleye, a health and wellness expert, writes from Lagos. Tel: +234 8100371304, Email: [email protected] or https://lnkd.in/efCmu87J.