Nutrition and exercise are key areas to address in the search for a healthy lifestyle. Over the years there has been constant rhetoric about the need to eat healthy foods and cut out excessive salt, high fats and sugar from meals. There has also been a greater push towards getting people to be more active, regardless of age, and keeping up frequent exercise. In all of this, the aim has been to improve health on a national level and, in so doing, cut back on healthcare costs and costs associated with the impact of poor health on a workforce’s productivity.
It is commendable then that yet one more organisation has sought to continue this effort, this time in the youth specifically. The Diabetes Association of Barbados is currently hosting ‘Camp Wellness’ – a summer camp targeting a group of six to 16-year-olds to help each child establish and manage a healthy lifestyle. Acknowledging the need to focus on not just adults, but youngsters as well, the President of the Association, Trudy Griffith, made a key observation – not only should the camp seek to mould the children’s attitudes regarding health and wellness, but should also contribute to their overall development.
This point was developed by Acting Health Promotion Officer with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Donna Barker, who noted that optimal wellness is more that just eating healthy and exercising. She cited information gathered from The University of California, which indicated that there are eight dimensions of wellness – occupational, emotional, spiritual, environmental, financial, physical, social, and intellectual.
“They are all interrelated and all equally vital in the pursuit of optimum health. For example, financial wellness involves the process of learning how to successfully manage financial expenses. Money plays a critical role in our lives and not having enough of it can result in stress, anxiety, poor nutrition and not being able to afford appropriate health care,” she explained.
“Financial wellness can therefore affect physical wellness, which speaks to maintaining a healthy body and seeking health care when needed. Financial wellness can also affect social wellness, which speaks to being able to effectively and comfortable perform our roles in society, and create support networks through relationships with others,” Barker added.
With this being the case, the long-used strategy to effecting behavioural change on a national level towards living healthier lifestyles must be reconsidered. Executing informational campaigns on the correct foods to eat and the benefits of exercise may not be enough in this current socio-economic climate.
While education is always key, in the midst of an admitted recession with possible job losses on the horizon for some, it would be difficult for people to choose healthy but expensive foods when canned and pre-packaged foods often sell far cheaper. And as Ministry of Health officer pointed out, financial constraints can manifest in stress and anxiety, which often leaves people more focused on getting more money and less liable to leaving time for workouts.
It appears to be a vicious cycle. One could empathise with the present government that certain unfavourable measures may have to be taken to get the economy back on track, and that the population has a part to play in this recovery. However, one could also understand the limitations on many individuals to maintain wellness in every aspect of their lives, given the economic state.
Regardless, the onus remains on each person to take responsibility for their own lives and do as much as they can, when they can. Perfection may not be achieved, but striving towards your goals is just as honourable.