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Do Government Health Initiatives Really Help

Jul 20, 2008
We are all, individually, responsible for our own health. We make choices about what we take into our bodies as regards food, fluids and substances and we make choices on how we look after our health - mental and physical. We also have the option to ignore potential health problems, take ourselves off to our local GP and hope for the best or give ourselves that extra edge in health care by taking out health insurance.

The government also has a large hand in our health care. It is in their interests to look out for the health of the nation as the fitter we are the less drain we are on health resources. But who regulates what they tell us, in our supposed best interest, and who determines whether or not it has worked?

This is why we have independent watchdogs. And two of these bodies have recently been assessing whether the government's latest initiative to improve our health has worked and whether or not it should continue in the same vein or if there is more that can be done. Their aim was to lower the incidents of preventable diseases by educating people in either ceasing damaging behaviour or being more aware of early symptoms. Areas covered were smoking, obesity, sexual and mental health and alcohol abuse.

It was found that all initiatives were helping reduce health care problems apart from in the areas of alcohol abuse and obesity. Research shows that 400,000 smokers quit after the ban on public smoking came into force last year. This is brilliant news and one of the best moves the government could of taken. Despite smokers moaning about the inconvenience of it all, so many have managed to quit that it is enough to make a significant impact on our healthcare resources, not just for the quitters, but for the passive smokers.

One of the main questions that makes a difference to health insurance premiums is whether or not we smoke. Health insurance companies know that this sort of self abuse can cost dearly where our health is concerned. Quitting the weed can not only save our health and that of our children but also save us money on the initial outlay of cigarettes and then on health insurance also.
For those relying on NHS care for treatment of the damaging effects of smoking, it could be a long wait. Waiting lists to treat those who have smoking related illnesses are lengthy.

As far as obesity is concerned, all the government can do is advise us of the health implications. It cannot remove food or stop us from eating, it cannot dictate how much we eat or whether or not we eat healthily. Our weight is also an issue when it comes to health insurance and it is more expensive to insure an overweight or underweight person because they run more risk of becoming ill. Health insurance companies have their own guidelines as to a healthy weight range for different heights.

One way the government could help in this area is by ensuring that healthy food is not an extortionate price. Surely, some sort of price regulation is not impossible? Junk food is notoriously cheaper and more convenient than healthy foods that require preparation.
At least if they were affordable, more people would be willing to make the effort. After all, if we are going to pay out for private medical care, or pay our taxes to ensure state health care, what is the point of living a careless life and hoping someone will fix us when we go wrong? It's not always possible to reverse many of the effects our chosen lifestyle brings on ourselves.
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