When it comes to health and healthcare, Americans fall short in many categories. While healthcare costs and the need or not for universal healthcare are lamented and argued about endlessly, there are simple ways to better prepare and encourage Americans to live healthier lives.
Making a bigger investment in preparing people to live a healthier life, to prevent health problems, is the first step we need to make as a country. That investment should be financial and on an individual basis, but it’s a difficult ask from people who don’t have the resources or basic knowledge to do so. Providing those resources can also lower the need and dependency on for-profit healthcare, giving us leverage to reduce costs.
Ways to Provide Encouragement and Easier Access to Healthy Living
It seems safe to say that most healthcare providers would agree that the ability to fight off disease is cumulative. That means feeding it and exercising it in the way it needs from the start provides the best potential for a person’s health. To allow people to care for their health from the start, communities need to maintain an environment that’s conducive to better health and emphasize the value of health early on and on a regular basis. There are two essential aspects to this that don’t have to come with much, if any, infringement on businesses or our personal freedoms or congressional intervention.
Better Health and Nutrition Education
While this has been said time and time again, we don’t see the same type of efforts to inform people on the benefits of health as we do on some other things like technology or business. Installing better health education in K-12 is an obvious part of that, but to help those who are already beyond schooling, changes to product labeling, increased ads explaining benefits in layman’s terms, and other non-voluntary-but-non-intrusive measures could be implemented to build that education into our everyday lives.
In terms of schooling, our education system simply needs a larger volume of formal and more in-depth education. While most Americans get what was once considered “the basics” explained to them in early-elementary school and are provided with basic health classes in high school, the full scope of how your health impacts your day-to-day or how physical and mental health are intertwined is barely touched on. There’s enough evidence at our disposal at this point to almost definitely say that better health and nutrition make for smarter, happier, more attractive, and maybe-even-richer people. Whatever motivates someone, better health can probably help achieve it in some way or fashion, but they need to be educated enough to know that.
Building the Infrastructure
Another step toward making communities healthier is simply giving them a good enough combination of space and resources to do so. Increasingly, urban planners are taking this into account, but the need extends to rural areas as well.
In urban spaces, more space is being reserved for natural areas, as well as larger parks and a more diverse range of activities. While this hasn’t reached the level it needs for everyone to truly have easy access to a cleaner outdoor space and the variety of healthy activities allowed for in rural areas or the suburbs, it’s a step in the right direction. Rural areas however shouldn’t be left out just because there’s lots of space. Certain rural communities have little or no outdoor infrastructure, especially those without their own school.
Another thing both of these communities are lacking are easy access to healthy food. While many rural areas might engage in more agriculture, not all do and others don’t grow a large variety or support enough livestock to make up for the fact that they may be a long way from the nearest grocery store. While urban food-deserts are more well documented, these rural areas are essentially just in one with different parameters. Simply put, if you can’t get optimal nutrition, you can’t function optimally. Providing people with the ability to get healthy food will make them healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally, as your body just can’t regulate itself without it.
Taking The Steps to Make Healthy Living Like Breathing
While health is certainly complex, and there may never be definitive answers to certain questions, health maintenance and disease prevention isn’t rocket science. There’s a reason for the sometimes obvious contempt of those who were raised with an emphasis on healthy living for those who don’t seem to care for or about their health. It’s because it becomes second nature, being healthy becomes a simple accumulation of no-brainer decision making. It’s ingrained and doesn’t require much effort. If we create that environment for everyone, then our society as a whole will get healthier.