Yesterday on +bbcradiowales there was an interesting debate on the governments involvement in our health. Should the government have control over peoples health if people expect the government to pay for health care?
With things like smoking I can understand why it is being so heavily restricted and controlled. When someone smokes, it doesn’t just damage their health, but it damages others around them with second hand smoke – yes, this should be controlled.
But, when people eat or drink themselves into obesity or diabetes, who is the government to tell them not to? You could argue that as their health isn’t affecting me or you, then they can do what they like.
On one hand, I can see the point of this argument, I don’t want to be told what I can and cannot eat, I like the freedom of choice. As someone in the office said ‘if I want to have a Twix, I’ll bloody well have one!’, and I agree. But I don’t eat junk food often, I eat healthily, and one Twix isn’t going to suddenly turn me into an obese diabetic. One Twix will probably have a negligible impact on my health.
But health isn’t cheap. I burn lots of calories, so need to eat more food than if I just sit down all day, I eat fresh and healthy food (which isn’t the cheapest option), I exercise (which needs trainers etc), and I have a gym membership. This all adds up, it is an expense I am more than happy to pay for my health, but an expense that I pay never-the-less.
Then there are those who do the opposite of what I do, they live a sedentary lifestyle, moving as little as possible and eat fast foods and sugary drinks. Many of these people will need expensive hospital care at some point in their lives, at the expense of the NHS. Is it fair for the NHS to pay for the care of these people, if they do not stick to the NHS’s guidelines for health?
I must admit, I do slightly resent the fact that I am contributing towards the NHS on top of the expense of keeping healthy, when I am unlikely to require its services to the same extent as those who do not take care of their health, but at the moment this is my choice.
I don’t know what the answer is, I personally don’t understand why people don’t keep healthy, it seems to be an alien state of mind to me. I don’t think imposing a healthy lifestyle is the answer though, not only will it be extremely difficult to enforce and monitor in a fair way, and I think this would be the start of a slippery slope…
I think that the issue shouldn’t be how much power the government has to impose a healthy lifestyle, but how can people be motivated into wanting to be healthy. It would seem that the fact that highly processed foods increase the risk of a number of serious diseases is not enough to motivate people, so what would?
A lot of ideas have been floating around such as free gym memberships or a tax on fast/ sugary foods, but as of yet, these are just ideas, and there is no actually plans to implicate any. I would love to have my gym membership paid for, but I don’t think any sedentary people would suddenly start going to the gym even if it was free…