Toward a healthy 2008

There will no doubt be lots of talk about health care this year. It’s an election year, after all, and the health care system is in need of serious political attention.

The escalation in the costs of healthcare, both to individuals and to businesses, is becoming unsupportable. The inability of the current insurance system to cover a wide enough swath of the population at reasonable prices is both economically foolish and morally distressing. The need to maintain expensive research into new drugs while also keeping the cost of drugs down remains, as yet, an unsolved problem.

We strongly favor a robust debate and innovative proposals aimed at addressing these very real challenges.

But what will probably not get as much attention in the coming year is the simple fact that, for most of us, the primary health problem we face is our own habits. As a population, our unhealthy habits are doing us much more damage than any “system” flaws. In fact, our habits are one of the burdens that the healthcare system is having trouble bearing.

With the new year, many of us are resolving to do better. Clearly not all resolutions will succeed. It is something of a cliche that the resolutions of January become the regrets of February and March. Many of us feel powerless to overcome the habits that are harming us.

But that is no reason to quit trying.

Those who manage to end a smoking habit, for example, generally failed at least three serious attempts before succeeding.

So, go ahead, make those New Year’s resolutions. And if you need to, make them again in April and August and November.

Success is coming.

Some of the smartest health resolutions that will be made as we start 2008 are:

1) Stop smoking (better yet, don’t start).

2) Address and overcome addictions.

3) Eat a healthy diet (avoiding high-fat, high calorie eating).

4) Get adequate exercise.

In fact, keeping these four resolutions will likely make 2008 and beyond some of the healthiest years of your life. Health fads come and go, but basic healthy living has nothing to do with these fads. It is simply a matter of getting serious about health and then doing those age-old things that we know contribute to health.

If you have trouble with one or more of these areas, though, it may take real commitment to turn things around.

Most healthcare plans have programs to help, and some employers have employee assistance plans offering a few visits with a professional who can help plan strategies for change. These professionals can direct those who need help with addiction, weight loss, or fitness to appropriate programs.

Finally, teaching children the importance of these healthy habits will give them a chance to stay healthy and active - and out of the healthcare system - for much of their lives.