In the light of what we have discussed so far, it is possible to visualise the task ahead for each one of us.
Physician: If you are a physician, you now know the task cut out for you. You know how poverty/deprivation in the have-nots and lifestyle stresses in the haves contribute to disease causation and perpetuation in your patient population. Ask for therapies that ensure well-being and adopt measures that ensure longevity in your patient population. Look out for professional burnout and negative emotions as they impact health and cause/impact disease. Be careful before you prescribe the costly new medicine to the poor, who may drain their meagre savings to somehow comply with your prescription. Be careful to look into the anger-greed-hostility-over-consumption-immorality angle that often complicates recovery from lifestyle diseases. Advise your patients to simplify their lives. Also, stop being impersonal in your treatment, without seeming to interfere needlessly in personal matters. Be more humane, look to help the person behind the disease, even as you do not neglect being objective, for both these ensure comprehensive treatment of the disease. Know the boundaries not to be transgressed. Tell the science researchers and policy planners to clean up their acts and offer you clear-cut evidence of what works where; how to control/prevent diseases of poverty and lifestyle; how to prevent burnout; how to promote well-being; and how to ensure longevity. Refuse to be taken for a ride by marketing techniques masquerading as scientific evidence.
If you are a patient, you now know the task cut out for you. Demand for definitive research to combat the diseases of poverty and those of lifestyle. Demand for research directed at the cure of diseases, not control of symptoms. Demand longevity with well-being, not just longevity alone. Simplify your life, declutter your home, downsize your ambitions, avoid excessive debts, over-consumption, and over-connectedness, and avoid over-exposure to negativity. Ask for physicians and researchers to clean up their acts. Stop being satisfied with what an archaic physician dishes out to you. Ask for, and expect, uncompromising scientific evidence for the treatment offered. Remember, treatment administered should cure sometimes, comfort always, hurt the least, harm never (Singh and Singh, 2006
). Continue to have faith in your physician, expect him to do his best, expect him to be firm with you at times; but know your rights as well, so you do not get taken for a ride. Expect informed consent to be exactly that, informed, and never get coerced into unsubstantiated research or treatment. Demand, and get, your right to be handled with care and compassion, and expect your physician to give of his time and expertise liberally, even as you do not take advantage of his gentleness. Give due credit to medicine (and due cash to the medical person who makes it possible for you to enjoy its benefits). The physician is no God, true, but often treating him like one works in your favour.
Caregiver: If you are a caregiver relative, you now know the task cut out for you. Expect the best from your physician, but equally important insist on landmark research to prevent/cure the different diseases. Caregiving can be exhausting, can be extremely stressful, and result in burnout. Know and learn better ways of coping with caregiving, especially in chronic debilitating conditions. The patient is suffering, and so are you. It hardly helps if you increase his suffering by nursing negative emotions, by passing caustic remarks, or by neglecting his genuine needs, for it only exacerbates his problem and, more importantly, compounds your own as a caregiver. Expect your physician to be competent, but caring too. Do not tolerate his lack of courtesy or any brusqueness. Do not accept that ethical standards are low everywhere, so how can medicine be spared. Demand high ethical standards, even as you demand high professional standards, and be ready to pay for what you get.
Biomedical researcher: If you are a researcher, you now know the task cut out for you. The patients, caregivers, and physicians have had enough of your dillydallying. Give them therapies that work. Tell them the reason why they fall sick so they can prevent it. Give them clear-cut preventive measures. How does poverty interact with disease, how does lifestyle and stress affect body and mind? What roles can religion, spirituality, and alternative and complementary therapies play? Do not sneer at them for their lack of robust evidence-subject them to searching critical scrutiny, but redefine and refine your parameters to understand them too. Work towards giving therapies that cure, not just control. Study well-being, simplicity, and longevity systematically and comprehensively. Orient your researches to answer such questions. You can continue your intellectual arguments, your work for so-called scientific progress, and take care of your own career advancement with smart write-ups and speeches. But you cannot afford to neglect the hapless patient or the harassed caregiver and, thereby, the well-being of society in general, whose welfare alone is your raison d'etre.
Writer/journalist: If you are a writer/journalist, you now know the task cut out for you. Ask for, and get, clear-cut evidence for therapies that work. Diseases of poverty and lifestyle grip major populations groups all over the world. What is the purpose of massive research funding and elaborate seminars, conferences, and workshops, if we are to be satisfied with only minor improvements, and there is no great movement to ensure well-being and positive health? Where even health defined as absence of disease is a very distant goal? Be on the look out for studies on well-being, simplicity and longevity, and help create a lobby for such type of research to flourish. Expose research misconduct ruthlessly, reputations be damned; but see to it that you do not become a pawn manipulated by some nefarious individuals and groups, and do not try to fish in troubled waters yourself.
Science administrator: If you are a science administrator, you now know the task cut out for you. Science is meant to bring about human welfare, even as it perpetuates its own progress. There can be no respite from supporting rigorous research into the diseases of poverty in the have-nots, and diseases of lifestyle in the haves. This agenda must be firmly set, and no waylaying of this agenda should be pardoned in researchers who do flimsy work with research grants. Stop playing God, or having blue-eyed boys. Only the most urgent research and the most competent researchers should get the research grant. Be especially aware of neglected diseases and research areas that may not be fashionable to work in, but are the real need of the people. Systematic and comprehensive study of well-being, burnout, simplicity and longevity must be promoted. Lobby with science administrators worldwide to pressure governments and bureaucrats to make health planning and care a priority on their agenda, along with poverty eradication programmes, and the means to make lifestyle changes possible.
Policy maker: If you are in a position to plan policies or execute them in government, you now know the task cut out for you. Stop finding reasons to put health and education on the back burner. Just think of your own self: if diseases of poverty won't get you, diseases of lifestyle definitely will. Systematic and comprehensive study of well-being, burnout, simplicity and longevity is the need of the hour. It is even in your own self-interest that unconflicted research finds preventive/curative answers to these problems. Give citizens the right to health, increase budget allocation for health, and get competent, qualified people to head health departments and ministries. More importantly, have efficient science administrators and stop interfering in their work by recommending research grants to sycophants and blue-eyed boys.
Ethicist: If you are an ethicist, you now know the task cut out for you. Just carry out a relentless campaign so researchers, policy planners, governments, science administrators, and the biomedical industry cannot deviate from ferreting out the truth about diseases of poverty and lifestyle. Accept no compromise to ethical conduct in researchers and industry. It's a perennial and unrelenting fight, and only those who have the guts and stamina to go on and on and on need to stick on here. Ethics is no part-time job, nor is it one that earns handsome perks. The work done well is often its only reward; and often the other reward is enemies all around who love to hate you, but know in their hearts that you are right after all.
Man of religion: If you are a man of religion, you now know the task cut out for you. Your insight cannot but make it clear how mankind suffers from diseases due to defective lifestyles, economic/emotional deprivation, and lack of spiritual rootedness. You know what ensures well-being and leads to longevity. You know the benefits of simplicity. You need to get the man of science to listen to you and your insights. Stop pulling him down or his branch. He works under methodological constraints that you do not have to face. He needs your insights and he needs your patience to understand those insights; he needs time, and your persistence, to help him make experimental models out of your insights. But collaborate you must, for science combined with religion offers the greatest chance for complete human development and well-being. Nothing, just nothing, can match or derail this combination of science and religion if and when it comes about. Also, equally important, the followers of religion are driven by a strong faith, which is often blind. It becomes all the more important that such faith is never, ever manipulated. For then, religion cannot become the means for human development; it becomes, instead, the means for human exploitation; which, knowing the powerful hold it has on the human psyche, it can easily degrade into.
Alternate/complementary medicine practitioner: If you are an alternate/complementary medicine person, you now know the task cut out for you. You are aware of lifestyle problems and have many insightful remedies to offer, which the person of mainstream medicine is sceptical of at present, and not without reason. Be more of complementary and less of alternate medicine. Mainstream medicine has a lot to offer, and it will serve the cause better if you complement their efforts rather than try to prove your alternative status. Moreover, stop going overboard with tall claims that only conceal an inner insecurity. Offer scientific proofs the way mainstream medicine demands and does, for they dictate the research agenda and procedures today—and not without justification. There are many therapies that promote well-being and longevity that you may have to offer, but they must stand the acid test of scientific verifiability and replication across geographical boundaries.
Conscientious citizen: If you are a conscientious citizen of your country, you now know the task cut out for you. To read what is written as a challenge to all the guys above and not relent till they have done it. For they subsist on you, and can survive only till you allow them to. Simplify your life and get researchers to study how simplicity impacts health. Stop being taken for a ride by the empty promises of callous regimes and bureaucrats and ask what action is being taken to promote health, reduce hunger, eliminate poverty, and ensure longevity with well-being. Stop feeling lost when scientists give long-winded explanations, which are often only a substitute for action, and urge them to find mechanisms to reduce stress and the related lifestyle diseases. Do not get exploited by smart researchers and their henchmen who may use you like a guinea pig to try out unsubstantiated therapies without your informed consent. Stop feeling helpless when your call for action elicits no response from the powers that be. Knowledge is power, and when you know what you need to get done and why, these people have no option but to do it; you must rid yourself of the shackles that poverty (in the developing) and lifestyle stress (in the developed) place on your psyche. Unite and carry out concerted efforts with NGOs, national and international, to make your voice heard. With the help of the knowledge that organisations like the WHO and its related agencies now place at your disposal (and with the explosion of knowledge that the WWW supplies, if only you know how to use it to further your cause), there is no way that the lethargy and complacency of the powers that be will not be shaken. Thus aroused, the slow wheels of change will gather momentum. For the government and power machinery are like sleeping giants. Once awakened, they can do wonders. You must leave the indolent giants with no alternative but to work that wonder. Thus, you take the first firm steps to achieve the glory of human development, which is at once both your journey and your destination.
Citizens of a world community: As citizens of a world community, know that the world has indeed shrunk; peoples and cultures are closer. So much that is good in far off geographical areas is now available to us because the world has coalesced and people and societies have opened up. Along with this comes the realisation that mankind exists at various stages of development. Those in the developed world have the means to make life meaningful but have often lost the meaning of life itself, while those in the developing world are fighting for life but often have the recipes to make life meaningful. This is especially true of a society like India, which is rapidly growing out of its underdeveloped status to become a developed society; it boasts of an ancient civilization and a philosophical outlook based on a robust mix of the temporal and the spiritual. There is a vibrant indigenous biomedicine and related disciplines (for example, Ayurveda, Yoga, etc.) as well as a burgeoning corpus of modern biomedical knowledge in active conversation with the rest of the world. India should be especially careful that while striving for economic development and scientific/biomedical advance, it holds fast to the values that have added meaning and purpose to life; values that the ancients bequeathed it with their experiential knowledge down the centuries. In fact, a rediscovery and careful sifting of such values to determine those relevant to the modern times is an important task before the thinking Indian of today. In so doing, he may be doing a signal service both to Indian society and, by extension, to most other societies that are escaping, or have escaped, the vicious grip of the diseases of poverty but are about to land, or have already landed, in the lap of lifestyle diseases.
How the means that the developed world has combines with the recipes to make them meaningful that the developing world has-that is the challenge ahead for mankind as it gropes its way out of poverty, disease, despair, alienation, anomie, and the ubiquitous all-devouring lifestyle stresses, and marches with halting steps towards well-being and the glory of human development.