The Lifestyle Health Thesis

January 10, 2012 · 3 comments

There are four available responses to the healthcare crisis arising from increasing rates of obesity, diabetes and lifestyle related disease.

  1. More efficient hospitals or primary healthcare facilities. This would mean patients would come in and out of the healthcare system faster, return less often.
  2. New drugs. For example, to increase metabolism or reduce desire (for food or cigarettes).
  3. More readily available surgeries. It’s possible that something like lap-band surgery will become routine, like an appendectomy or colonoscopy.
  4. Individuals change their behaviour. Primarily, this would involve eating less and more nutritious food and increasing the amount of physical activity they do.

If we are to divert from our current trajectory (of most of us getting fat and dying from lifestyle related disease) then a mixture of all four will likely occur.

On improving the healthcare system, there will no doubt be improvement in the long-term. Short-term however, it’s not likely there will be a systemic improvement to greatly improve things. Given the majority of a person’s healthcare costs come in the final years of their lives and the baby-boomer generation is about to enter that phase, we can expect the system to become less and not more efficient in the next few decades.

On drugs and surgeries, there’s no doubt these will proliferate – humans will always take the path of least resistance when it comes to change, and the ‘insta’ nature of such options makes them attractive. But such options aren’t yet widely or readily available.

Which leaves us with individual behaviour change. It’s free, immediately accessible and there’s sufficient available resources to solve the problem.

Yet, while it’s the most accessible option, it also requires a tidal shift. Normal people don’t want to eat less pizza, don’t want to say no to a glass of wine, and don’t love waking up an hour earlier to walk or run or ride before their day begins.

But I’m most excited by the fourth option.

Lifestyle change is a tide that rises all boats. Whatever you are – boss, father, sister, employee, lover, partner, friend, artist, thinker or process worker – lifestyle change (eating less, sleeping more and being more active) will make you a better version of it.

{ 3 comments }

Vic Phillips January 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm

#4 is the most empowering. Lifestyle change is more difficult and takes more effort yet, the long-term effects are well worth it.

Jason Schoolmeester January 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Nick,

As someone who has made the decision to tackle my unhealthy lifestyle, I know how hard it can be to make that change even when you know it is the right thing. I have made some awesome progress but still have a long way to go.

I think the key point here is that individuals need to take responsibility for their own health and their own lifestyles. Yet while we talk about health being personal, its collective impact is such that we can no longer afford to just hope that people make healthier lifestyle choices.

So how do you encourage individuals to take notice of their lifestyle and make healthier choices? Some options include public education, pricing, and taxation. The key is having a range of incentives and disincentives.

There seems to be lots of public education: more and more health and lifestyle bloggers, lots of government sponsored campaigns, increased access to medical information. Yet the poor lifestyle choices continue, people still eat large portions when they know they don’t need it.

Pricing is interesting. There has been some talk on the radio here in Darwin lately about airlines pricing their fares based on a passenger’s weight. I think there will be some movement in this space with lifestyle factors affecting price. We already have this to a degree in insurance premiums.

Taxation is interesting, but it would need to be very carefully implemented and it runs the risk of hurting people already disadvantaged. Of course there is also the issue of the standards by which we are measuring a person’s lifestyle. The easy target is weight and it does have a significant impact, but it also works both ways, what if someone is too slim?

Attitudes are changing, and I think that is the key. We need to reach a tipping point where enough people are making good healthy lifestyle choices that people are positively influence to make healthier lifestyle choices for themselves.

When thinking about changing public attitudes, I think about the fast food industry. The fast food industry is already responding with “healthier” options as a direct result of them recognising the changes in customer behaviour. Are fast food chains culpable for using selling techniques like pushing upsizing? What would we say if they pushed cigarettes to our kids? Is pushing the upsized fries and soft drink any worse? It will be interesting to see the change in attitudes toward food advertising and selling techniques. We may never get to a day when the chocolates are hidden behind the counter, but I think we will look back in 10 to 20 years and be shocked by what we are subjected to right now.

Anyway, if anyone wants to start making a healthier lifestyle choice, then can join me in my 60 Days, 60 Walks challenge – Day 12, Walk 13 so far. Remember to tweet if you walk using this hash tag: #60D60W.

Regards, Jason

Frank January 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Nick,
I came across this today and thought of your burning money idea and just thought I should share it. Run or else offers to track if you have kept to your running goal each week. If you screw up, they’ll either donate your money to charity or more like you idea to spend it absurdly!

http://runorelse.com

I have no affiliation with the site just wanted to share.

–frank

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