Redefining Ailment


The book, Epic Measures, by Jeremy N. Smith has challenged me to redefine my definition of ailment, as well as what ails the world. Based on my personal experience, I had developed a view of ailment focused only on an individual’s cause of death, and how these causes differ between developed and developing countries. After reading this book, I have a much broader understanding of our world’s ailments. My definition has expanded beyond cause of death, to include disability, and any other source that leads to a reduced quality of life.

My understanding of what ailed the world, was based upon a very limited amount of knowledge. The information I absorbed was mostly from the news on TV, or discussions with family and friends. Because of this, my knowledge was skewed toward what the media presented as the world’s most important ailments. This information taught me that there were many health differences between developed and developing countries. I believed that the most pressing health issues in developed countries were chronic conditions, such as heart disease, or cancer. This is irresponsible to assume because there are many people in developed countries still living below the poverty line, meaning they have less access to health care. The health concerns of these individuals are very different from those with more financially stability.  With that being said, health concerns in developed countries are less likely to be transmittable diseases, as there are more prevention programs, knowledge available, and treatments. Because of the programs, it is less likely that these diseases will be spread. For example, sexually transmitted diseases/infections are a major health concern world wide, but with proper sex education and protection, these can be reduced. In contrast, areas without access to proper birth control and education programs have a much higher risk of spreading these diseases. It is unfortunate that even with our growing knowledge of the causes of our ailments, people in developed countries make decisions that lead to larger problems, such as smoking and eating unhealthy foods, leading to possible lung or heart disease.

Upon reflection of my views, it became apparent that my definition of ailment had been narrowed to cause of death. Because of this book, I have reconsidered and expanded my definition of ailment to include nonfatal conditions and disability in all of its forms. These could have a multitude of origins, from birth defects, to accidents, to genetic predispositions. It is imperative that these be included when determining what ails the world, because even though many disabilities do not become a cause of death, they can lower the quality of an individual’s life, sometimes drastically. Jeremy N. Smith was successful in writing the book, Epic Measures, because it forced me to rethink an idea  I hadn’t considered in depth. Any ailment that reduces an individual’s quality of life deserves to be documented and treated. If epidemiologists, demographers, government leaders and philanthropists had taken a view similar to my original thinking, then millions of people could be without treatment for disorders that are causing pain and suffering.