Should Politicians be in Charge of Your Body?
- Friday, 14 September 2012
A few short months ago, New York City's Mayor Bloomberg ushered in legislation to limit the size of sodas available in the city that never sleeps. A few weeks ago he made headlines again, this time for his plan to encourage mothers to breast-feed their newborns in city hospitals because, according to Bloomberg, breast is best. We could debate all day long whether his ideas are good ones, or if they would create Bloomberg's intended result - to create healthier children. The real debate, however, is whether the government has any business legislating the care and feeding of your body.
Looking to the future, governments see future health care expenditures burgeoning faster than our collective waist-bands: about 60 percent of the adult population is currently overweight or obese. And with the extra pounds come the mounting costs associated with obesity-related diseases like Type II diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It's hardly surprising that politicians are starting to search for ways to divert the impending flood-waters.
We're on a slippery slope if we allow our political leaders to make decisions about our rights for individual health care. Already, it's like pulling teeth to decline immunization in schools, or to eschew mainstream health care for traditional or innovative strategies. At the time of writing, Canadians are at risk of losing thousands of natural health care products due to legislation (which may not even be legal) that serves no purpose other than to take away a Canadian's right to care for his or her health. Although the government may have a role in protecting the quality of the foods and products I buy, I'd like to be the one who determines whether I take white willow bark or a drug-store pain killer for my headache.
There are questionable inconsistencies with the government health strategies. There is no way you can convince me that cigarettes don't pose very serious health risks, yet they are legal to buy and are sold in stores - not by prescription or requiring a special licence.
Cigarettes, yes. Soda, no…?
The tobacco industry is a very powerful lobby, obviously. Government health care decisions are not always in the best interest of our health.
We must hold on to our right to care for ourselves, and irrespective of any government intervention, we need to do a better job of it. We know that we benefit from seven to nine hours of sleep nightly, yet regulating bedtime ended as soon as we moved out of mom's house. Likewise, most people are aware of the recommendation to eat a minimum of five servings of vegetables and fruit daily for optimal health - but how many of us actually eat that amount every single day (or even most days)? Do you get thirty minutes of daily exercise? How's your coffee intake? Sugar, alcohol, those aforementioned cigarettes?
It's time we stop absolving ourselves of responsibility, and instead make conscious choices that support vibrant health and a vibrant life. We must protect our right to do so.
Lisa Petty is a nutrition expert, healthy life mentor, and radio show host. Visit LiveVibrantly.ca.
Photo credit: Jon Ovington