Question of the Week

June 12, 2006


Health care is a political issue -- heath is not that simple.

"I'm pretty adamant that the government shouldn't tell people what they can and cannot do. But the government should encourage good behavior. ... Most politicians talk about health care, which focuses on how we get and spend money on disease. It is the wrong question. What we need to be talking about is how do we create a healthier culture. We cannot spend our way out of this." [Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee]

While "the government" may not be able to legislate healthy living, those in government can "lead by example."

"After growing up in the Deep South, Gov. Haley Barbour [of Mississippi] is no stranger to fried chicken, syrupy candied yams and crumbly buttermilk cornbread. But Barbour, who often takes good-natured ribbing about his ample frame, is concerned about his state's growing reputation as one of the fattest, unhealthiest states in America. On Thursday [June 15, 2006], Barbour will be host of the Healthy Mississippi Summit, where state and national experts will discuss ways to promote nutrition and an active lifestyle. ... And taking a cue from Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee - who lost 110 pounds to improve his health, after starting at 290 - Barbour says he'll lead by example."

Governor Barbour grew up surrounded by people who ate in a certain way. He has now chosen to follow a different example.

"As my doctor told me [Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee], this is not rocket science. If you burn more than you consume, the weight will come off. ... For the first time in my life, I started exercising. It's something I've never done. I've run from it. Hated it. So that was a very different lifestyle for me. For a Southern boy like me, growing up in the Deep South, deep fried, I gave up fried foods, sugar, a lot of processed foods. But I find now that I don't miss them at all. I feel better than I ever felt in my life."

Chances are, you are not the governor of a state. You may not live in Mississippi or Arkansas. You may never have heard of either of these two governors. So, what does all this have to do with you?

"[I]t's essential to teach children the importance of sun protection at an early age. Parents should lead by example and teach their children to incorporate sun safety into their daily routine. ..."

You may not be a parent, but children are not just following the examples of their own parents. Are you an older sibling, babysitter, aunt, uncle, teacher, camp counselor, youth leader, or member of the health care community?

"The World Health Organization (WHO) is encouraging health professionals to be proactive in minimizing the problems caused by tobacco addiction, consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke. ... 'Tobacco continues to be a leading global killer, with nearly five million deaths a year', notes Dr LEE Jong-wook, WHO Director-General, 'The health community plays a key role in the global effort to fight this epidemic. Health professionals are on the frontline. They need the skills to help people stop smoking, and they need to lead by example, and quit tobacco use themselves.'"

Even those who don't think that anyone is looking to them as an example "are likely to obtain health benefits themselves..."

"A Lancet study found adults who had been avid TV watchers as children were more likely be overweight, to smoke and to have high cholesterol. Researchers from the University of Otago, New Zealand, said parents should 'lead by example' and turn the TV off. ... Dr Hancox ... said that it may be difficult for some parents to impose such a regime and would need a lot of support and encouragement. But he added: 'Adults are likely to obtain health benefits themselves if they lead by example and turn off the television.'"

Whether or not it was a conscious decision, you looked to others and learned "health habits" from somewhere as you were growing up. Even now, whenever you make decisions about how you are going to spend your time (or even have a meal) with a group of friends or family members, you influence each other in some way.

Questions of the Week:
In what ways did the role models you had as a child help you develop a healthy lifestlye as a teen and/ or an adult? In what ways did these examples help you develop unhealthy patterns? In what ways do your peers, friends, and family members influence you now? Do you think that all those who helped you develop your patterns knew that you were looking to them as role models? Now that you are older, what can you do to replace some of the unhealthy habits with healthy ones? Who might be learning their health habits (good and/ or bad) from you? In what ways can you improve your own health -- and encourage those around you to improve theirs -- as you lead by example?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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