Individual behavior impacts health care


Originally published in The Northwestern

Justice is supposedly based on an impartial judicial system of crime and punishment. The world of law and order requires justice to be blind. The most basic principle of absolute justice requires us to overlook our personal interests for the sake of achieving a peaceful society. But when the same principle is applied in certain places within our society then sometimes we become blind to it.

Absolute justice is the first level of human relations among three (i.e. absolute justice, compassion, and kinship) that can lead to this path of human prosperity.

Recently, my mother-in-law, a medically uninsured person, was not feeling well early one morning and I had to immediately take her to the ER at a nearby Catholic (Mercy) hospital. My past experiences in the ER have been less than satisfying, and I was worried that her insurance status would prevent her from receiving proper medical care. I was wrong and the doctor was medically thorough, the nurses were extremely responsive to her needs, and they even gave a way to pay for her medical bills in an affordable manner. My after thoughts were that this is the kind of practical paradigm of absolute justice we should all have.

Unfortunately, her treatment and care was an exception to the rule in comparison to the 50.7 million other medically uninsured Americans in 2009 – according to the United States Census Bureau – who suffer daily. Since 2000 the problem has worsened because the number of non-elderly uninsured individuals has gradually risen.

This has been a direct result of healthcare costs becoming too high for average Americans. Current affordable health insurance is only given in limited situations such as employee benefits, self-bought (expensive and full of conditions), or government provided (if you qualify based on income). Medical care is a basic human right under article 25 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to achieve a peaceful society every American must have it available to them.

However if you ask me then this is not the whole story. We must undertake personal accountability when it comes to our health. There is an old adage “we are what we eat,” and it applies to our current lifestyle of unhealthy eating (junk, high calorie, high cholesterol, etc.).

Our health is not just affected by what we eat but how we eat too. In my personal case I have always tried to follow a simple Islamic philosophy for eating, that Prophet Muhammad recommended-stop eating when you still have a minimal desire to eat more. This principle was proven in an incident at the time of the Prophet Muhammad when a king sent a doctor to him and his followers as a goodwill gesture. But, the doctor soon left complaining that none of Muhammad’s companions ever fell ill. Upon inquiring why his companions had such good health, Muhammad related the aforementioned advice.

Both our behavior and food is currently creating an epidemic on obesity. Since the 1970s obesity has doubled in adults and children according to National Center for Health Statistics 2009. In addition it continues to be a leading public health problem according to most health related reports. Due to this medical costs are rising, more Americans cannot have affordable healthcare, and a disturbance of peace in society.

When we talk about justice we cannot be blind to our own because it is a crucial step towards societal justice. And without healthy eating, we do ourselves and society an often irreparable injustice.

About the author

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Ahmed Khan

Ahmed Khan received his BSc in Computer Science from University of Maryland Baltimore County and works as an IT Consultant in Oshkosh. He has published in various local and state newspapers and is an active member of the Muslim Writers Guild of America.

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Avatar photo By Ahmed Khan