It used to be said – though it may be simply a myth – that Chinese doctors focused primarily on ensuring that their patients remained well rather than on curing their illnesses, and that they were only paid when their patients were free from illness. This meant looking after their patients when they were fit, and ensuring that they remained well.
Such a philosophy is the antithesis of that of most recent medical services in the UK. Doctors’ surgeries are full of people with ailments; under the National Health Service doctors simply would not have the time for the Chinese approach. Until now. There is now at least lip service to a more holistic approach.
It is not simply a question of preventative medicine to stop diseases, through immunisation for example, though that is important. It is a matter of positive good health, so that the whole body continues to function throughout life as well as it can. It is no accident that such an approach is called holistic. Healthy, whole and holistic all come from the same basic linguistic root.
How does this affect children? If children are to live a healthy life into old age, they need not only to be treated when they are unwell, but to live in the right environment, consume the right food and drink, have the right exercise and get the right amount of sleep.
This may seem all very obvious, but children themselves are often unaware of the long-term effects of habits which they acquire, such as spending hours at the computer. It is for adults to think for them, to see the long-term impact of living in unhealthy environments, to encourage them to life-long learning, the development of new skills and a positive approach to life. Yet often adults show lack of concern, or are ignorant of the positive health care messages put out by the Government. And of course there are toxic communities which are not conducive to good health.
So, obvious though the needs may be, we have a long way to go before we offer a holistic positive approach to the well-being of all our children.