Ahead of heart disease and cancer, could ignorance be one of the leading causes of serious illness in the United States? It seems as though, regardless of the facts related to disease prevention, there are literally millions of people who simply choose to take no notice.
First, a definition of the word, “ignorance” as it is used here, so as not to intentionally offend anyone. Ignorance refers mainly to a lack of understanding, education or information. Most of the time, the deficiency of knowledge is unintentional, resulting from inexperience or an educational history lacking in a specific area. However, ignorance can also result from a choice, a conscious decision to disregard certain information, in this case regarding health.
Excessive alcohol consumption, for example, is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From 2006-2010, the agency reports, excessive alcohol use resulted in, “approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost annually during that period, costing an estimated $223.5 billion.”
The CDC also reports that nearly 20 percent of Americans smoke, that’s around 43 million people. With nearly one in five deaths now caused by smoking-related illness, why would anyone consciously choose to continue such a disgusting and polluting habit? Denial of the necessity of childhood vaccines may also contribute to preventable disease contraction.
Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children expose them, and those around them, to potentially life-altering illness ranging from measles to polio (poliomyelitis). Because of polio’s recurrence in several African countries, in May of 2014 the World Health Organization declared the resurging polio threat an international emergency stating that it is, “one of the world’s most serious vaccine preventable diseases.” Many experts fear that, if unchecked, it could be brought to the United States and make a devastating comeback due to a fall in newborn vaccinations.
Food is another contributing problem to preventable illness in the United States. Well-educated, intelligent people commonly turn a blind eye to the facts related to diabetes, obesity and cholesterol-related heart disease. More often, Americans tend to choose potato chips and soda pop over a fresh apple or glass of unsweetened fruit juice.
It is one thing when people don’t know about these issues, but it’s quite another if they simply refuse to pay attention or take action. Billions of dollars is spent every year caring for those who may never have become so ill had they taken some basic, precautionary steps.
Of course, regular contradictions from those giving advice on better health and their own behavior also inhibit the effectiveness of patient education. Many healthcare workers are just as guilty the general public; perhaps even more so because they should, by profession, know better. Why should a patient listen to the recommendations of their healthcare provider if he or she ignores the same information?
How many nurses, doctors and staff are readily seen smoking outside a hospital or other healthcare facility? Logically, it’s hard to grasp how people can work daily around people suffering from diseases that might have either been prevented or mitigated and not take that knowledge to heart for their own health.
In some cases, moderation can help reduce a person’s risks; eating less fat, cutting back on sugar, and limited indulgence in junk food will certainly make a difference. But there is no safe amount of smoking or recreational drug use. It’s all deadly, one cigarette or 50, the body just wasn’t meant to have to process that kind of toxic material day in and day out.
The bottom line is that any reduction in positive health will compromise the body’s ability to fight off disease. When people become ill, they can no longer work, contribute to society or provide for their families. Quality of life suffers for the individual and all of those around them. Ignorance of facts and undisputed medical advice can take a terrible toll on a person – and everyone around them.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at www.deerinheadlines.com.