Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Achieving Healthy Societies

My daughter and I were just in the sunflower patch watching the ladybugs strolling the large green foliage, providing a hands on experience with nature and making me very happy that I have found another “Kill your Television” bumper sticker to post on the back of my vehicle.

Society is plagued by demons of addiction and obesity. Living contrary to my bumper sticker mantra, I did watch the 6 o’clock news where they had two obesity and one smoking related stories in addition to a plethora of crimes involving drugs. All of these things are obviously both quality of life issues as well as costly to the tax payer. As a society, we seek to treat these issues with diets and programmes, but tend to spend less effort on preventative measures.

Let us begin with something like food. Organic and fresh food prices are astronomical in contrast to fast foods and processed grub. For example, I bought a container of fresh pineapple chunks (not canned) today at the grocery store and it cost me $6.99. For the same amount I could have come close to feeding my whole family for lunch at McDonald’s. I know there are people out there who are lobbying to tax the fast foods on a similar scale to tobacco and alcohol, but the determination of who determines what should be classified as the “bad” foods is always a scary prospect. Some of the research is inconclusive as well – take the avocado: good for you but high in fat. Then there is the red meat debate. So, clearly, developing a structure and criteria would be a taxing chore in itself (pardon the pun).

Something that would be pro-active (and I believe that the Conservative government here in Canada was contemplating this) would be to allow things such as a portion of gym membership fees to be a claimable item on your income tax return. Given the cost of even the most basic of fitness equipment, I would like to see all fitness gear – bicycles, running shoes, spandex and cool max clothing – to be both tax free and something that you could write off. For example, if you are an avid runner, you will go through a minimum of 3 pairs of running shoes each year. Running in old shoes can lead to a number of injuries which costs the Healthcare system loads of money and can also cause one to give up running and slipping back into a sedentary lifestyle. One pair of runners will cost you, on average, $120, and thus approximately $360 per year. Then there is running gear. If you are running year-round which, in this country factors an 80C contrast between Summer and Winter, you need clothing that will keep you comfortable. Add in another $300.

A basic gym membership is $600 per year.

Cycling is another example of the cost of fitness. A basic utilitarian bicycle will cost you roughly $500. Then there’s a helmet ($65) and the other assorted things like a bike lock ($60), tune-ups, etc. Why wouldn’t we want to promote cycling and make it affordable as it not only aids in the health of people, but also is another drop in the bucket toward helping out the environment?

Again, if we make things like gym memberships and fitness gear affordable, then more people would utilise them. There are countless physical endeavours that I have yet to pursue, largely because of money, though having a family and career also play a part in my not having taken on pursuits such as rock climbing, kayaking, etc.

Our society is neglecting of preventative medicine. I believe that one’s annual check-up should consist of a consultation with a Naturopath and a M.D. in which they recommend supplementations based on symptoms and family history. The problem here as it stands is that there is no regulation or standardisation of the supplement industry (i.e. you can see Ginseng on the shelf of a Health food store ranging in price from $5 to $70 per bottle). The whole diet and fitness industry is exactly that as well, with their photos of beautiful people in flowing cotton clothing doing Yoga to mountain and ocean backgrounds – that’s marketing, NOT reality. Still, people want to believe, spend $60 on a bottle of pills that is nothing but a load of filler and caffeine and the corporate gurus are laughing all the way to the bank! So, we need to straighten this misinformation out, as well as lobby to have things such as massage and whatnot covered under the most basic of health plans as de-stressing treatments which will hopefully lead to fewer folks popping pills, much to the chagrin of the big pharmaceutical companies.

Finally, we need to expand physical education in our schools to keep kids active. The key is to be creative in how this is accomplished. We need to find activities conducive to all body types and athletic ability. I was a fat kid growing up and, though I played lots of sports, I was frustrated because my level of physical agility was minimal. Then I discovered Rugby and it changed my life as Rugby is a game where every body type can play and be a significant member of the team. While Rugby may not be the saviour that we are seeking (as my medical bills will attest) it was a springboard for me to go and develop a very active and healthy lifestyle.

Here’s hoping for change.


  • At 12:15 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    cannot have 'no comment' on all that. spare change for education is needed, without bingo halls or casinos. dance is good for some, ball games, track, the works, but voluntary, as long as some choice is made. summer of '62 i had a friend with all the toys, so we played baseball, cricket, football, soccer, climbed trees, walked dogs thru' ravine to river valley and hit grade 8 in good shape. no help from school. note how government helps in the new china; everyone dancing in the public park, with new organs donated by falun gong. generous to a fault.


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