No matter who you are, where you are from and what you want to become, good health is the pivot to your success. It is the ultimate key to riches as it opens the door to everything good in your life. In every nation, regardless of their economic status, improving the quality of life and increasing longevity are common threads that tie us together. Sadly, far too many people in many places lack basic resources like food, clothing and shelter; it is essential for us to protect our diverse populations from the devastating impact of preventable illnesses and death.
Senator Isaiah Balat of Kaduna, Veteran journalists Yakubu Abdulaziz of Kwara, Rufai Ibrahim of Nasarawa; Nigeria's former Charge D'affaires in Lebanon Terimi Jimoh and Chris Ghomorai of Bayelsa were my bosom friends killed by Nigeria's poor environment. The problems are cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease all of which are non communicable. Together they are the world's leading cause of preventable death and represent the defining global health crisis of this generation.
In the 1990s, forty percent of deaths from non communicable diseases were in our developing countries; compared to 75 percent today. This surge can be traced largely to four areas: tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, insufficient physical activity and unhealthy diet which leads to obesity.
Each year, 38 million people die from these diseases globally. But three quarters of these deaths occur in poor countries like Nigeria. In addition, these health threats carry an economic burden of increased medical costs with lost wages and unpaid pensions that continue to climb. A 2011 report of the World Economic Forum estimated that non communicable diseases could cost the world a cumulative output loss of $47 trillion by 2030. Of course this doesn't begin to factor in the emotional toll on family and friends- the abandoned children without parents; students left without teachers and businesses left without leaders.
But what is to be done? We all have an obligation to help ourselves and the community to control their risk factors. It is more straightforward than you may think. A 2015 study published by the American Journal of Medicine concluded that chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and cancer could be cut by a half if people adopted healthy lifestyles such as regular exercise; diets low in sodium and added sugars and abstaining from using tobacco. Adopting healthy lifestyles however, doesn't happen overnight. There is science behind why people change, as each person is inspired and motivated by varying emotional and life factors.
While taking an individual approach to extending and saving lives is effective, think about what a dramatic impact we can make by casting a bigger net and creating a culture of health. This means designing infrastructures so the healthy choice is the easy choice. For instance, nations can prioritize creating and maintaining safe spaces for exercises; low cost options to purchase healthy foods and clean air laws that protect people from the dangers of second hand smoke. It doesn't have to be an entire nation. It could happen in a community, company or neighbourhood. Every little bit helps to preserve and prolong human life.
Effective prevention also means understanding the unique risk profiles based on race or ethnicity. In the United States, African Americans have a high prevalence of hypertension, a major risk factor for stroke; not surprisingly, stroke rates are much higher among African Americans. Where you live can make a huge difference between the length of your life. We have seen life expectancy differ by more than 20 years for people living just five miles apart. With creative problem solving, there are many more ideas and more solutions. The key to salvation is in working together, by so doing, we can create a world that is healthier and all manner of prosperity is sure to follow.