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Self-health communicator? What is that? [Part 1]

Hi! I’m Shraddha, a self-health communicator.

What is that?

Since I’ve only found out myself, let’s unpack it together.

This is my new mini-series about how I came up with this name and all the people and experiences that informed this title. I’ll be writing, mostly for posterity, and sharing the pivotal years and moments of change.

Let’s go!

Age 12 — Geneva, Switzerland

My interest in health was sparked in 2008 on a brief but eventful family holiday to Switzerland. That trip was aspirational because it helped me visualise what I could value and how I could live as an adult. Beautiful and clean spaces, social freedom, personal safety, organised public services, accessible and standardised public transport, and living in a city that is a seat of power.

Walking around in wide plazas and sitting on clean trains, I envisioned the kind of life where you don’t need to worry about the basics like clean drinking water and electricity. It’s naive to think these amenities exist all over the tiny, powerful country, but as a young tourist, I definitely saw the good side of things. The grown-ups looked relaxed. The kids looked excited about their lives. Citizens could focus on achieving their goals and dreams because their government provided and protected their basic needs.

Then, while looking into the World Health Assembly hall during a tour of the United Nations building, the penny dropped.

Healthy people lead healthy lives. Healthy people created solid and powerful countries. Healthy people produced healthy systems of governance. Healthy people practiced accountability and demanded it from their governments.

But I didn’t want to be a doctor. Or work in the healthcare system. I loved my languages too much to dive into the sciences. So I spent a lot of time with my mother, then a Professor of Pharmacy Practice, and I would listen to her lectures and observe her work.

Slowly and surely, I used what I had absorbed at a university level for my school projects. I thought about healthcare systems, as a 12-year-old would anyway, in the books I read. I soon became increasingly curious about how the natural environment fits into our daily health and well-being — or how we fit into nature's cycles. A core memory of mine is the time and effort I invested into a research project during a term holiday. I wanted to understand how greenhouse gases work and why global warming worsens with human-made chemicals of convenience.

Chemicals of convenience are what I call anything created to make human life “better": the refrigerator, hairspray, fast fashion, cupcake wrapping, longer-lasting produce, and even the lunchbox with sparkles on the lid I took to school every day. My understanding of the world was that overconsumption of any resource exacts a terrible price, and the trend of convenient living is something I can’t not be a part of if I lived in this world.

I had officially begun stripping away the glamour of everything I had felt secure about. Even though I was still a child, I was no longer a child who asked for things without counting its human, social, and environmental cost. Despite getting my first flip phone and feeling quite fancy and accomplished as a teenager, I wondered where they got the natural resources to make it, who put that device together, and how far it had travelled to become my favourite possession.

At 27, I look at 12-year-old me with an adult's eyes. While I didn't stop living in a convenient world, I remember asking myself whether there was ever a line between convenience built on innovation and one built on greed. I wondered if that were a line I would cross. And I definitely wondered if it was a fixed line in a fixed place. What is ethical consumption? Am I consuming things ethically? How do I become worthy of my place under the sun? How can a 12-year-old be a valuable member of society? Am I overthinking things? (I probably was, to be honest.)

My perspectives changed, and my worldview was slowly becoming more...holistic. This was my first step towards becoming a self-health communicator.

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