It seems like every week there is some kind of “day”. International day of the this, World something day. They are all important because they channel the world’s focus onto whatever the issue is, even if its just for a day. That’s part of the reason that we’re campaigning to have an International Day of the Girl.

Today is World Health Day. In my head, this is one of the most important days of the year, because health is part of EVERYTHING ELSE. Health isn’t just a case of sick or not sick. Health is a determining factor in success, but at the same time, whether you are healthy or not is often determined by how much money you have, where you live, how much education you’ve received, and whether you’re a boy or a girl…

In other words, poor health is a product of dis-empowerment, but it also leads to more dis-empowerment. So its like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tuberculosis is a good example. Have you heard of it? Probably not, because its not something we face too much in places like Canada anymore (except among marginalized groups). Tuberculosis is an infectious disease (meaning you catch the bug from someone else) and it primarily affects your lungs. It’s curable with approximately 6 months of consistent medication.

But, in many places around the world, tuberculosis is still a big problem, and becoming an even bigger problem as the bug becomes resistant to the medication. Tuberculosis thrives in places where people live in close quarters (lots of people in a room or apartment), where people can’t afford to take the medication for the full course, and where people have low immunity (from poor nutrition, or other diseases like HIV/AIDS).

So, you can see that tuberculosis is different from something like cancer, where we don’t have a cure. We do have a cure. The difference is whether or not we’re in a situation where we are likely to catch it in the first place, and whether we then have the opportunity to be treated.

We’re more likely to get sick with diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS, cholera and others if we’re poor and dis-empowered.

Then when we get sick, it is often hard to go to school or work. Girls are often responsible for caring for sick family members, or need to take over their chores. Without adequate treatment, sickness lasts longer than necessary, meaning even longer absences from education or income, which can have long-term effects. Girls that get too far behind in their classes may decide to drop out or may even get fired from their jobs.

Sickness is the best friend of poverty, gender inequality, poor incomes, and lack of education. Health is a major factor in determining the future of girls everywhere.  Something to think about as we recognize World Health Day…

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