The latest topic in the Run With An Idea debates takes on the notion that being fit and healthy is a personal responsibility?
This subject is a potential mine field. I totally accept that it should be in the responsibility of most people to control what goes into their bodies and how much exercise we take. However after nearly ten years working in the NHS there are far too many psycho-social factors that can affect an individual’s ability to do just that, despite their desire to be fitter and healthier.
During my time in the NHS I learnt that socio-economic status and eduction had a huge baring on how able someone was to help themselves. In the city I worked in I covered a particular catchment area and that area was notably poorer than other areas of the city. People attending our department often had a variety of other complex issues alongside the problem that found them visiting the Physiotherapist. These things could include long term unemployment, housing issues, domestic abuse, addiction to drugs and alcohol, mental health problems. They could have a mixture of these all at the same time. They were often less educated in looking after themselves and in health than their better off peers. And these things would end up providing barriers to changing their long term health behaviours.
With the economic downturn of the last few years I also believe that problems such as addiction and obesity will worsen. Lack of employment is a trigger in many people with depression. Poverty is a huge factor in poor eating habits and obesity. We have seen the cost of healthy produce rise and rise so when a family sees an offer in a fast food outlet to feed four of them for 99p each they probably believe that they are getting a bargain and full stomachs. I know and you know that this is not the case and it is not good in the long term but families struggling to feed themselves don’t think about how they might need a cardiologist in a few years, they need food there and then.
Education from home and in schools is a factor too. Many of us have lost the art of cooking for ourselves. Skills are being lost through the generations so people will do what is quick, easy and cheap for them.
Ultimately yes it is the responsibility of an adult to choose what they do with their body but I argue that this is not always so simple. There are many factors that impact on our ability sometimes to make the right choice and some of us are not always in a position to make the right one, right now. I do believe that problems like obesity can be helped but I think we need to look at communities and society as well as targeting individuals.
However with anything like this there are always really valid views that should be shared. Please comment if you have a moment.