Where are our affirmative health policies?
We just voted in a national election. Who did you vote for? What was dear to your heart that influenced your choice? What issues evoked passion and stirred feelings in your gut? Jobs and growth, right? That may be your cup of tea; but, not mine.
What policies have been/will be put in place to encourage Australians to lead a healthy lifestyle? What incentives will be provided? What infrastructure will be put in place?
The benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle are numerous and have been well documented. Besides the economic fillip to the economy with less people bleeding health coffers dry in order to treat diseases of physical inactivity (Queensland Health spent $14Billion last year), an improvement to the general psyche of the entire population is an enormous bonus. Positive, healthy bodies equals positive minds; and, great things happen. Don’t we deserve that?
I have been involved with sport and physical activity almost all my life. I was lucky; I grew up with a positive, supportive family and had plenty of friends who also valued physical activity. We were always outside doing stuff. No computer screens or mobile devices to distract us back in those days. In fact I went through a few years where we didn’t even have TV! If you wanted to hear what was going on in the outside world you had to turn on the radio.
In today’s society, there appear to be more and more barriers put in place to discourage people to be physically active and few, if any, incentives provided to encourage physical activity.
I live on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Australia. We have plenty of pristine beaches that beckon physical activity; and, they are well used. However, looking at policy promises by our major parties, I had to scramble hard to find any evidence of pro-active measures to help us get healthy. Sure, we have a few million being pumped into some stadiums for a small percentage of the population to use who are already physically active; however, what is being done for the majority? Not much!
How about some of these ideas that I have heard bandied about over the last few years? They all have merit and, with some fine tuning, have the possibility of becoming a reality:
• Incentives for families and individuals who are pro-active in seeking physical activity opportunities. E.g. send in the receipt from your gym membership or sporting club registration to receive a pre-determined rebate.
• Cash back/partial refund/discount credits from your private health fund if you do not make a claim during the year.
• An ability to claim back a pre-determined amount for equipment required for physical activity. E.g. $50 rebate per year for running shoes.
• Incentives for businesses who promote fitness and wellness programs in their workplace.
• A commitment in educational institutions for mandatory physical activity time to occur; and resources made available through staff, facilities and equipment.
• Increased advertising and promotion of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle – diet and exercise.
• Community education opportunities, at a minimal fee if necessary, increased for both adults and children.
• Further development and funding made available for physical activity infrastructure for all to use – not just for the over-paid, poorly behaved super fit.
• Further development of Apps, like Pokémon Go, that encourage people to be active.
As you can see, there is no clear policy or affirmative action from our two largest political parties. It appears that it is up to us. Let’s start the ball rolling, start talking about it and lobby if necessary; and start making things happen. NOW! Now is the time to act.
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