It was a chilly winter afternoon in the early ‘80s. It was on this day among thousands of hustling passengers on a busy railway platform that I noticed Bholu. In the din of the crowded platform, I could hear vendors selling their wares with their inimitable, shrill tone. An express train had just chugged into the platform and came to a sudden halt. There were hundreds of passengers pushing their way through the cramped train doors. There were coolies trying to find suitable passengers with disproportionately excess luggage – the obnoxiously fat lady with five humungous trunks, the frail old man with the crooked hat, the army officer on transfer with luggage that could put to shame a goods train, and the stylish girl just returning home after her studies.
It was in the midst of this confusion that I saw Bholu. He was around 14 and had a wheatish complexion. Save for his deformed limbs, he was a handsome chap. He was scrambling across the floor of the platform trying to divert the attention of travellers from their preoccupation of finding their seats on the recently arrived Express train, and those trying to get out of it. Bholu was sitting on the floor with a pair of deformed hands stretched out begging for alms. His legs were a mess, twisted, deformed and weak. To move anywhere, he had to literally drag himself on the ground. Parts of his legs touching the floor had developed visible callosities and cracks, and it looked painful even to watch him find his way through the crowd. He was a victim of poliomyelitis, which had crippled him for life. Thousands of Indians have seen such a reality in the past and have dreaded its consequences.
This sight is rare nowadays, rare because the odd case one sees is mostly a reminder of days gone by when polio was commonplace. The drive to eradicate polio from India and the rest of the world has been a painstakingly continual process. India has through its healthcare system enabled the distribution of live polio vaccines through its hugely successful “Pulse Polio Immunization” campaigns. This effort has pre-emptively touched the lives of millions of Indians, who would otherwise have had to face the crippling effects of poliomyelitis.
The Role of Modern Healthcare in Prevention
Modern Healthcare is a Multi-Billion Dollar business worldwide – not to mention the various government agencies that pump in Billions to prevent certain ailments that had once become household names. Today, preventive medicine has a major role to play, especially with the complex nature of emerging infections and lifestyle-related diseases. The World Health Organisation has taken massive steps to curb various infectious diseases that had once become the bane of humankind. Modern healthcare today provides various treatment modalities that were thought impossible a few decades ago. Of the various contributions of modern healthcare that seem plausible and progressive, it is preventive medicine that has taken the limelight by promising hope and better health for future generations.
Preventive medicine has gone a long way since the discovery of vaccination by Edward Jenner, which was a key milestone to preventive medicine. Nowadays, there are scores of diseases that have found themselves under the umbrella protection of universal immunization. Small pox which had made a name for itself as a killer disease has become an iconic example of the success of vaccination. The implementation of universal immunization for certain deadly diseases is a prerogative of every government in the modern healthcare system. Millions of babies are immunized regularly preventing deadly diseases that once had caused epidemics of mass proportions.
To recall the effects of such diseases, let us not forget the highly labile nature of various viruses that have caused mortality and morbidity to such an extent that their very names augurs fear – in recent times, H1N1 influenza virus wreaked havoc causing the death and morbidity of millions across the globe! What was modern healthcare’s response to this pandemonium? Streamlined development of vaccine against H1N1 and newer variants, with an equally efficacious method of its distribution made it possible to contain the disease.
Various diseases that have now found credible preventive vaccines that change the lives of millions worldwide every day. Vaccines have found a prominent spot in every child’s life.
Here is a list of some of the diseases that have effective vaccines:
- Human papilloma virus
- Herpes Zoster
- Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
- Pneumococcal Infection
- Meningococcal Infection
- Hepatitis A Infection
- Hepatitis B Infection
- Yellow fever
- Japanese B Encephalitis
Final Words on Preventive Medicine
Preventive medicine is the hallmark of modern healthcare, and its blue-eyed baby! The continual development of vaccines and cures for various diseases is second nature to modern medicine. The safety profile of vaccines has improved considerably over the years and modern healthcare protagonists never fail to sing its praises. Think of a world devoid of vaccines – you can very well picture the pandemonium caused by illnesses and death perpetrated by these major killers. Modern healthcare has provided the mechanism not only to provide these preventative shots but also a framework that makes its availability to the millions a reality. Development of a vaccine for HIV infection is underway, with some hope. Let us hope that this hope fructifies into a reality. It can touch many more lives.
In today’s world, lifestyle illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, etc. have taken prime spot when it comes to morbidity. Preventive healthcare has been continually trying to find ways to prevent if not ameliorate effects of these lifestyle diseases as well.
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Like Bholu, many others have seen through trying times in the past, but generations after them will bear witness to the progressive influence of modern healthcare in the form of preventive medicine.