A recent poll from IMRE conducted online by Harris Interactive reveals some sobering data. Bottom line: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
At the highest level, the survey shows that two-thirds of adult Americans admit they don’t live a healthy lifestyle all the time. The primary reasons aren’t surprising: Time, money, and that living a healthy lifestyle at all times is just not a priority.
Call them excuses, but it seems that despite a national push for greater attention to getting and staying healthy, increasing healthcare costs, and obesity and chronic disease epidemics that are sucking the life out of us, it’s just not resonating.
So, what can we do about it?
First, consider that this is—or will become—everyone’s problem. Whether you’re an individual, an employer, a school, a government organization or a nonprofit. Everyone needs to buy in to the fact that problems don’t fix themselves, people fix problems. This particular problem needs hoards of attentive and motivated people.
We’ve been in a collective conundrum about all of this for decades. Some argue that making individuals more accountable for healthy behaviors is key. Maybe. But what about the folks living hand-to-mouth, with language barriers, who sacrifice medical care for a trip to the grocery store or their children’s education? All the talk about making health a priority isn’t translating well to these groups, much less the groups living with fewer such challenges.
As a communicator, I am dumbfounded. If starting a national movement focused on motivating healthy behavior is truly a priority, we are failing. So, here’s my prescription:
Government: Get your rear-ends out of process perdition and come up with solutions that inspire, rather than endless tripping over administrative bureaucracy.
Employers: Give your people a break. We’re a national mess of stress, and we know about the outcomes. Stress leads to depression, leads to overeating, leads to lack of motivation, leads to little exercise, leads to diabetes, heart disease, etc.
Schools: Seriously, start talking to students the minute they enter the system about how important it is to be healthy, and everything they can do to make sure that they develop healthy behaviors. Give them the tools to educate their parents, too. Kids can actually do this. It’s like “teach your parents well.”
All others: If you’re not talking the talk, then start. If you’re talking the talk and not walking the walk, you’re part of the problem. Set an example, encourage, show your stuff and put your money (not junk food) where your mouths are.
As health communicators, we need to push harder for a seat at the big table. Then we need to advocate strongly for a more aggressive point of view, total engagement, messages that are delivered repeatedly in language that is understood, and action that truly motivates.
We’re at a crossroads here. Consider taking the road less traveled and bring some people along with you.