The Road to Chronic Diseases
With up to 15 million people in the UK currently suffering from chronic diseases, it is a wonder how the NHS has not come to a stand still trying to cope. As we all know, the NHS is not perfect but when looking at the number of people who rely on it, day in and day out, we see its necessity. However, its function serves as a safety net for todays current lifestyle while the important question of “How can I prevent chronic disorders?” is largely ignored.
The health conscious do their best to fan the flames of social change but the figures still rise with 2.9 million people predicted to have three or more long-term conditions by 2018. A survey done by the Department of Health in 2006 shoes that chronic disorders increase in people that come from a lower socio-economic group. If affluence and better access to education is what it takes to lower these figures, then why is more not being done to educate. By 2018 it is thought that the additional expenditure in health and social care will rise to £5 billion. I am no economist but that, in my eyes, is a lot of money which could be reduced with the following steps.
Whether or not you are a ‘foodie,’ everyone loves food. Its role as a necessary part of life is generally overlooked, shelf life and taste is often prioritised over nourishment. The healthier options generally cost more and therefore only available to those in a higher socio-economic bracket. In today’s society, I am stating the obvious. Of course better food costs more; but when looking at food consumption from a health and not a business point of view, the general consensus seems nonsensical.
Words such as organic, free-range and natural, which promote good health, also come with a price tag. It is common knowledge that if you buy organic foods, you are going to be spending more on your weekly shopping. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association showed that you could be spending over 100% more on certain items such as yoghurt, cheese and beef, if you purchase organic foods. This increase in price automatically makes healthier foods more inaccessible to those in a lower socio-economic group thereby forcing them to eat food that in the long term will cause chronic diseases.
A healthy lifestyle should start from birth but the fundamental lessons that we all should be learning have been lost. The necessity to learn information and undergo standardised testing in order to live a ‘comfortable’ life has completely overshadowed exactly what is needed to live a long and healthy life. Learning how to exercise, to eat and to rest all play a vital part in creating a healthy well rounded human being. A study by the School and Students Health Education Unit shows ‘Less fresh fruit and vegetables are eaten as pupils get older and up to 24% report eating 3 portions of fruit and vegetables. 16% of 14–15 year olds and 27% of 10–11 year olds report eating 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables ‘yesterday.’
This backward correlation shows the general trend of eating habits generally. As we get older we tend to eat what we want as opposed to what is good for us. What is good for us is demonised and made to be a chore to eat. I argue that the opposite should be the case. Better access to healthier foods and an education showing the benefits of a healthier lifestyle will bring down the cases of chronic diseases. As we get older, what we should want to be eating is what should be making us stronger.