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Contemplating About Health Care Threats as Tigrai Shines and Rises with Industrialization and Urbanization

By G.Amare
Tigrai Online Oct. 2, 2020

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The world is quickly becoming more industrialized, urbanized and modernized as people migrate to cities (1). In 1950, less than 30% of the world population were living in an urban setting while today it is more than 50%. This is expected to grow to about 60% by the year 2025.

At present, the greater majority of the Tigrai  population are living in rural places. However, urbanization and industrialization are gradually growing. There is a greater intention to invest in industries. A few industries have become operational in recent years while many others are still in the pipeline.

Urbanization grows with industrialization. In conjunction with this, the lifestyles and work conditions of the rural people are expected to change i.e. scattered rural villagers will become suburbanized settlers and overtime, become congested urban dwellers who would be engaged more  in sedentary lifestyles compared to rural settlers. An urban society, commonly, is  physically inactive as they are not engaged in farming activities and laborious works.

A shift in diet is also certain to happen along with industrialization, urbanization and modernization. Traditionally, the rural people of Tigrai enjoys fresh homemade whole food, mostly rich in protein and roughage in content and with no other additives while urban dwellers mostly depend on  factory processed and canned foods which contain different additives including flavorings, sweeteners, preservatives, colorants; and other indirect additives such as packaging materials that would have immediate contact with the actual product.

Generally speaking, communicable diseases/infections of either viral or bacterial origin such as cholera, malaria, measles, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS are more prevalent than non-communicable diseases in developing countries.  Without doubt, communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis will continue to remain as burdens to the healthcare delivery system. The  nature, type  and management of bacterial and viral diseases are also getting more complicated, impactful, resistant,  and sophisticated than ever before. COVID-19, a viral pandemic, is a very good example that has cost over a million  lives worldwide and  impacted everything beyond imagination: the economy, politics, social relationship, workstyle, worshipping, and so and so forth.

Resistance due to Inappropriate and indiscriminate use of antimicrobial drugs is a  mix to the global  challenge and a growing concern in today’s healthcare service. Many bacteria are becoming untreatable with most of the currently available therapeutic options.

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Apparently, dealing with communicable disease will not be the only reality in Tigrai, if not now but surely in the future. As Tigrai progresses towards industrialization, urbanization, and modernization, the type, etiology and pathology of diseases get more diverse and complex.

It is a well documented fact that industrialization and urbanization are  associated with different serious health risks. Industrial products are claimed to be responsible for posing health risks either via accidental physical injuries or by causing acute chemical poisonings or via a long-term exposure to chemicals released into the general environment (2). For example, cancer is considered as the number one environmental disease tied to industrialization. Asthma and other respiratory diseases can be induced by pollutants and chemicals from industry (3).

There is also a greater need for Tigrai to advance  its backward agricultural practices of subsistence farming. To obtain an optimum yield, the application of  agrochemicals (pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides etc.) becomes necessary (4). However, agrochemicals contaminate almost every part of the environment: human food chain, water, soil and air.  Agrochemicals can reach and contaminate  surface water through runoff from treated plants and soil. Groundwater pollution due to agrochemicals is also a problem. Agrochemical residues are also found in soil and air and in surface and groundwater.

Contamination of soil, air and water with agrochemicals pose significant health concerns. The harmful effects may not manifest in humans for years but reported to have caused deadly diseases. Certain  agrochemicals are linked to human health effects such as immune suppression, hormone disruption, diminished intelligence, diabetes, reproductive abnormalities and cancer (4). Results of cancer incidence and mortality follow-up showed an increased occurrence of cancer of the gastrointestinal sites and of the lymphatic and hematopoietic tissue.

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The data regarding pesticide exposure and human health revealed that several pesticides cause neuronal disorder, degenerative diseases, some effect fetal growth and cause congenital anomalies while others are carcinogenic for humans (5). The harm effects agrochemicals escalate if used excessively,  indiscriminately and in absence of precautionary measures which include the use the safety masks, gloves and other protective gears during the spraying which leads to access of agrochemicals into the bloodstream through inhalation and dermal exposure which can adversely affect their eyes, skin and the respiratory system.

The world is also advancing  to new approaches of diagnosing and treating diseases using the sciences and technologies of genomics and personalized medicines (6).  Medical and pharmaceutical researchers believe that it will become  a common practice to see doctors performing medical procedures by placing tiny devices-known as nanomachines which carry microscopic computers with very specific instructions-inside human body. Because they are very small and are hoped to travel through tiny capillaries to deliver oxygen to tissues, remove obstructions from blood vessels and plaque from brain cells, and even hunt down and destroy viruses, bacteria, and other infectious agents and may also be used to deliver drugs directly to specifically targeted cells.

Genomics, study of gene structure, is also drawing the attention of researchers as a promising advancement in medical practice. The human gene is the basis for this scientific approach aiming to identify specific genes that predispose human being to a disease and allow doctors to understand, for instance, why certain individuals are more prone to cancers than others are or why one type of cancer is more aggressive in some people than in others or may also reveal why a drug proves effective for some patients while not for others (6).  A patient specific genetic information gives birth to personalized medicine-which suggests that medical care can be tailored to match a unique genetic profile. For example, if a study on an individual’s gene reveals that they are predisposed to develop a certain disease, doctors could detect such a disease long before any symptoms appeared.  Such genetic information may also alert doctors the likelihood of having an adverse reaction to a medication. This information may give doctors the ability to prescribe a precise kind of medicine and the dosage for the particular case.

Without doubt, the future Tigrai will be a home for more urbanized societies; and more lifestyle and environmental changes will occur and such changes are associated with the emergence of more non-communicable diseases. The type of medical and pharmaceutical technologies is changing. It is getting more diversified, modernized and sophisticated. The focus and interest of the future are on developing new approaches of diagnosing and treating diseases using the sciences and technologies of genomics, nanomedicines, and personalized medicines. Industrial chemicals are also relevant to the future Tigrai’s health problems.

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In short, the realities described are the conditions and realities that Tigrai  will be highly challenged with, if not now in the near future. Thus, there is a need to revisit the existing policy and formulate an integrated approach that pays a proportionate attention to providing comprehensive healthcare delivery that targets all dimensions of human health: biological, environmental, psychological and social.

Apparently,  the future Tigrai needs more specialized and skilled health professionals to deal with the emerging NCDs; to cope up with new medical and pharmaceutical technologies; to manage  the medical concerns related to changing lifestyles and environmental conditions consequent to the process of urbanization and industrialization.

Further readings

  1. University of Michigan. Global Urban Population in Developed and Developing countries; 2002. http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/urban_gc/ 
  2. World Resources Institute; Industrialization and health; http://www.wri.org/publication/content/8347
  3. Blake, U (2010). How Toxins are Changing Disease Patterns; As the environment changes so do disease patterns and diseases distributions; available at http://suite101.com/article/how-toxins-are-changing-disease-patterns-a286433;
  4. Aktar MW, Sengupta D, and Chowdhury A. Impact of pesticides use in agriculture: their benefits and hazards. Interdiscip Toxicol. 2009 Mar; 2(1): 1–12. Published online 2009 Mar. doi: 10.2478/v10102-009-0001-7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2984095/
  5. Sharma N. & Singhvi R. Effects of Chemical Fertilizers and Pesticides on Human Health and Environment: A Review. International Journal of Agriculture, Environment and Biotechnology, IJAEB: 10(6): 675-679, December 2017. http://ndpublisher.in/admin/issues/IJAEBv10n6f.pdf.
  6. Awake. Will Modern Science Cure the World? January 2007.

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