“Unhealthy Habits Are What’s Killing Us”

This is my latest blog post over at You can read it here or after the jump.

I discovered this opinion piece on yesterday (“Unhealthy Habits Are What’s Killing Us”), and found myself nodding time and time again at the key points the author, David Frum (a conservative — and I never agree with conservatives!), was making with respect to health care reform, which is likely to be written into law in 2010.

Political leanings aside, I really recommend reading the whole piece (it’s brief).

But if you’re short on time, the crux of his argument is this: “If you eat too much, exercise too little, drink too much, smoke, take drugs, fail to wear a seat belt or ignore gun safety, there is only so much a doctor or hospital can do for you.”

In other words, personal responsibility is critical at a time like this, when health care costs are soaring and so many Americans are under-insured or uninsured.

And, perhaps most importantly, he doesn’t think any legislation in the works will do anything to improve America’s health.

As Frum notes, “One-third of Americans are overweight. That one single fact accounts for almost 10 percent of all health care spending. At any given moment, one out of six motorists is unbelted. American children are nine times more likely to be injured in a gun accident than children in other developed countries.”

He goes on to say, “If all Americans quit smoking, if everybody wore a seat belt, if gun owners consistently secured their weapons, if we all drank in moderation and abjured illegal drugs and if the one-third of the country that is overweight would drop the extra pounds, those individual actions would do more to improve health and extend lives than any contemplated by Congress or the president.

Some companies, like mine, are trying to help their employees get healthy, acknowledging that a (voluntary) wellness program is an upfront investment in their employees now that will pay dividends later when their employees are taking less sick days and are healthier and less susceptible to illness/disease.

But even the very existence of a program like this lends itself to accepting personal responsibility, something not all Americans are willing to do … or think they even need to do.

As Frum concludes, “As you consider your new year’s resolutions, remember: better habits will benefit not only your family and yourself — but all your neighbors and countrymen as well.”

I’m one of those people who professes healthy living and really tries to live it. But I know not all our readers will necessarily agree that health and wellness are as important as I make them out to be, and so we welcome your thoughts.

How about you? What are your thoughts on voluntary wellness programs? Do you think personal responsibility should be a bigger factor in how we look at health care reform? Where do you stand on these issues?


5 thoughts on “ “Unhealthy Habits Are What’s Killing Us”

  1. I do think that personal wellness should be taken into account when looking at these types of issues. But there is so little general knowledge out there about how to truly live healthfully, it’s hard to make the general public understand what it means. I mean, my dad still thinks cutting carbs is the key to weight loss! I believe it’s common ignorances that have been ingrained in people’s thought patterns over time which are causing the problems we see today.

  2. I do think you’re on to something there, Jenngirl. And Americans tend to be very “I-wanted-it-yesterday”-minded … it’s a delicate balance, but I do think there’s merit in teaching and encouraging healthier living.

  3. Hello, just found your blog! I’ll definitely be reading more. I’m a recovering disordered eater myself, in a holding pattern away from OA, making changes and growing just like everyone else, I’m sure 🙂

    Wellness Programs? I thought some research actually indicated that they don’t work. Also, I’ve started hearing a little bit of buzz about small amounts of excess weight not being as bad as previously thought, and how the estimates of how much money overweight people cost the health care system are overblown. I think once you get more firmly into obese/morbidly obese territory, yes, you’re costing the system money. But a lot of people (see for some interesting analyses) think that overweight people are becoming scapegoats.

    I’ve also read that smokers cost the system LESS $ because they die earlier (sorry, sounds mean).

  4. Sorry to leave abruptly, I was interrupted 🙂 I meant to say that the personal responsibility part is hard and I see both sides. On the one hand you want to be healthy and you know that nobody is forcing food into your mouth. On the other hand, bad food is SO prevalent, readily-available, cheap and pretty much engineered to addict people who are susceptible to its charms… Also, like you said, the “I want it yesterday” attitude, and Americans’ insistence on having it all (illogical thinking like, “I can eat these cookies and nothing will happen!”) makes it harder, I think, for people to see in black and white. Reality: you can’t have everything you want and you may have to suffer from lack of cakes and ice cream if you want to be healthy. But it’s really hard to see reality when food is practically flying at you from all corners and people are encouraging you to indulge here & there because you wouldn’t want to “deprive yourself.” Urgh, OK now I’m just rambling. Hope something here made sense.

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