Chronic diseases and health promotion

Overview - Preventing chronic diseases: a vital investment

Misunderstanding #5. Story of Faiz Mohammad

MISUNDERSTANDING #5: chronic diseases are the result of unhealthy "lifestyles"

Many people believe that if individuals develop chronic disease as a result of unhealthy "lifestyles", they have no one to blame but themselves. The truth is that individual responsibility can have its full effect only where individuals have equitable access to a healthy life, and are supported to make healthy choices. Governments have a crucial role to play in improving the health and well-being of populations, and in providing special protection for vulnerable groups. This is especially true for children, who cannot choose the environment in which they live, their diet and their passive exposure to tobacco smoke.

They also have a limited ability to understand the long-term consequences of their behaviour. Poor people also have limited choices about the food they eat, their living conditions, and access to education and health care. Supporting healthy choices, especially for those who could not otherwise afford them, reduces risks and social inequalities.

"People don’t understand why I became ill": Faiz Mohammad, 48 years old, Pakistan (diabetes)

For the past 20 years, Faiz Mohammad, 48 years old, Pakistan, has been a victim of the misunderstandings surrounding his condition. He married two years after being diagnosed with diabetes, and remembers the difficulty he had in obtaining the blessing of his future parents-in-law. "They were quite reluctant to give their daughter to someone with diabetes. They didn't trust me.
They thought I couldn't support a family," Faiz explains.

More than three quarters of diabetes-related deaths occur in low and middle income countries.

A hard-working livestock keeper and a father of three boys, Faiz considers that at 48 he's living a normal life. However, even after all this time, he still encounters all sorts of obstacles that he finds difficult to overcome. "People don't understand why I suddenly became ill. They think I have done something wrong and that I'm being punished."

Faiz himself has misunderstandings about his disease. He wrongly believes that diabetes is contagious and that he could transmit it sexually to his wife. "I'm afraid of contaminating her because people keep telling me that I will," he says. Faiz has a check-up and buys insulin every two months at a local clinic. He claims that he is not receiving clear information about his disease and wishes he knew where to find answers to all his questions.