It’s been 2 years since the COVID-19 shut down and it seems that the severity of the pandemic is finally winding down.
During this time, the primary public health messages we heard were:
These messages have left many of us concerned, confused, and sometimes embroiled in controversy as we try to make decisions based on discernment of risks vs. benefits and individual rights vs. responsibility to community and governing authorities. With all the heated declarations, discussion, and debate around these recommendations, there was one public health strategy that somehow got lost.
What about the comorbidities?
Where did we see and hear the following recommendation?
The word comorbidity refers to the presence of two or more diseases or medical conditions in a patient at the same time (COVID 19 + something else). The problem with comorbidities is that they are associated with worse health outcomes and more complex clinical management for patients. Examples of comorbidities that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 are cancer, cerebrovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes, obesity, and substance abuse disorders.
Despite the fact that the CDC lists over 20 comorbidities that are risk factors for severe COVID-19, we heard little in the public health messaging about this issue. This is not surprising as it is human nature to focus on a quick fix to alleviate the immediate difficulty, rather than focusing on long-term solutions.
As we enter the “learning to live with it” stage of the pandemic, it is a good time for all of us to remember this:
The COVID-19 disease process has two parts
- the virus and the host (the person).
Therefore, the health of the host matters!
During the past two years, strategies dealing with viral exposure and mitigation through testing, masks, and social distancing were part of the solution. Vaccinations that impart immunity were also recommended, though their effectiveness wanes, and they come with both risks and benefits, as does every other medical intervention. What we have forgotten is that dealing with the overall health condition of the host is also part of the solution. And preventing, managing, and eliminating comorbidities offers long-term benefits with minimal risks.
It’s interesting to note that on the list of over 20 comorbidities provided by the CDC, the majority of them are strongly associated with the lifestyle choices we make each and every day - what we put into our body and what we do with our body. Our daily lifestyle choices impact the development and severity of these comorbidities.
In Hebrews 12, we are reminded that, in the Christian life, we are running a race that has been marked out for us. And we are encouraged to throw off everything that hinders, along with the sin that so easily entangles us. The health of our body and its ability to fight off viral assaults are important supports in effectively running the race marked out for us. And the results of unhealthy living become the comorbidities that make it more difficult to withstand those assaults.
As we reflect on the past two years of living through a public health emergency and adapt to living with COVID-19 in our midst, it is a good time to ask ourselves this question:
Do my daily lifestyle choices related to my health put my body and mind in the best position to fight off assaults that come upon it? Do my daily habits help or hinder me in running the race marked out before me?
It’s a valid question because Hebrews 12 makes it clear that successfully running our race is more than just about dealing with our sin. It’s about throwing off anything that hinders us from running our race effectively.
As we continue running our race in this new stage of the pandemic, it may be a good time to focus less on the virus and more on the health of the host.
Good Health for Good Works Challenge:
What do you need to do to prevent, manage, or eliminate the comorbidities that increase your risk for being sidelined?
Of the four 4 primary factors related to a healthy lifestyle - Eat, Move, Cope, Rest - what changes might you make in your daily habits to put yourself in the best position to run your race?
Resource: For practical ideas on how you can grow your positive habits in the 4 key areas of health - Eat, Move, Cope, Rest - please visit the 2020 Weary or Well? Resource Page from the 2020 CLA Outcomes Conference (please use password: GH4GW@Eph2:10)
About the author:
Ginger Hill is a Christian wellness speaker, coach and consultant and the founder of Good Health for Good Works where she helps the earnest, but often exhausted, workers in Christian organizations to take steps toward healthier living so they can fulfill their organization's mission with energy, excellence and endurance.
Psalm 92:12,14 (NLT)
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