Persevere with that new year’s resolution to keep to a preventive lifestyle, writes John Cossham
The NHS is wonderful, but is primarily a reactive “illness service”. I am keen on preventive health – it seems to fit a green lifestyle, even though the term has become overused.
When I studied for my environmental health degree, I learned about health promotion. Fifteen years later, there are still moves to increase the number of wellness and advisory services. The latest one, the Change4Life campaign, was launched this month to provide practical tips and advice to make healthier choices in the way we run our lives.
Taking the human lifecycle, preventive health begins with a planned pregnancy and a balanced diet during this, with little or no alcohol and definitely no cigarettes. Childhood vaccinations are important, not just for the health of the individual but to protect the immunity of the whole community. Protecting infants with stairgates, clean water and smoke-free atmospheres all add to a healthier toddlerhood.
Then there’s the five-a-day fruit and veg habit to coax them into, avoiding excess salt and sugary drinks, and teaching them to brush their teeth. Some water supplies are fluoridated and there is much debate about this. The much-advertised obesity epidemic might be partly avoided by taking plenty of exercise, such as walking and cycling to school, and playing sport – that’s not just games on the Nintendo Wii either.
Later on in life there’s the sticky subjects of soft and other drugs, smoking and drinking, sexually transmitted infections and avoiding unplanned pregnancy – not to mention the perils of teenagers driving cars.
Preventive and positive actions will help improve health, both physical and mental, quality of life and longevity. A healthier population would use hospitals and prescription services less, saving resources.
Many of these healthy choices, which you may have resolved to make on 1 January, are just habits which, once learned, become part of your normal routine carried out with little effort.
Social workers play an important role with some of these issues, and leading by example is, for me, the most ethical teaching method.
John Cossham is Community Care’s ethical living expert. Read his blog