It was the year 1900, and the number one cause of death was infectious disease – pneumonia, influenza, polio.
One hundred years later, in 2000, the number one cause of death was behavior-related disease – heart disease, cancer, stroke, COPD.
Stop a second and re-read that. Let that sink in. The top four causes of death in 2000 were directly related to our behaviors – primarily tobacco use and obesity. Ouch.
That was just one of the eye-opening examples presented by Ross M. Kauffman, Ph.D., at Forum as he spoke on “Not Merely the Absence of Disease: Creating a Healthy World.” Kauffman (coincidentally the brother of Bluffton’s own criminal justice professor Rudi Kauffman) is an epidemiologist working in the Training in Research for Behavioral Oncology and Cancer Control program at the Indiana University School of Nursing in Indianapolis.
Then last night was the “medical” episode on The Biggest Loser – where Dr. Z comes in and dramatically explains to the contestants what their extra weight is doing to their health.
I was so impressed by the woman who was voted off the show. She was taking a handful of medicines daily when she started the show. When they showed her “today,” she was down to one pill. ONE. And she had “only” lost 50 pounds. Her goal is to be off all meds by the show finale. And to think she had been living like that for 20 years, without the motivation, the confidence, the desire to change.
Since we can’t all move to the Biggest Loser ranch, employer-sponsored wellness programs are so important. Just think about it – healthier employees mean fewer doctor visits/medical tests/medicines which in turn mean fewer insurance claims and better insurance rates.
For the past three summers, Bluffton faculty and staff have enjoyed an employee-led weight-loss/fitness challenge. It’s been fun. It’s been motivating. It’s been successful. And today begins the first faculty/staff Zumba noon-time class.
While we cannot control everything that affects our health – there are many things that we can do to stay healthy. In a fun, crowd-participation portion of Forum, Kauffman distributed sun screen, toothpaste, antibacterial gel and tissues to participants as examples of how we can take control of our own health. He also stressed the importance of getting flu shots, wearing seatbelts and not smoking.
Our health and the health of those around us are often in our own hands. It’s still the New Year. There is time to make a resolution to become informed about the impact of our actions, and then take it one step further and work to make healthy choices.