Our rational brain knows there was a time when life occurred before our arrival. And we intellectually know that it will go on after our departure. Many of us do not grasp how short our time really is here, in the big picture of things. We often make choices as though we do not have an expiration date. Knowing that day is coming, do we want it to come any sooner than necessary?
There is a fascinating if not discouraging study conducted ten years ago from the National Academy of Sciences that compared health and death with other developed countries that has resurfaced which describes the USA as one of the wealthiest nations with the poorest health outcomes and early death. Yes, it appears that with all of our riches and our sophisticated health care system, life expectancy in the US is actually declining.
The study took a wide lens look to not just differentiate different age groups, but rather concluded that health outcomes and early death are occurring for all age groups including children.
Certainly gun violence, accidents, addiction, poor diet and sedentary lifestyles are all factors. Of course, there are additional pieces to the puzzle.
Other countries are not suffering with an opioid addiction epidemic. Gun violence is out of control in our country, but not an issue to this degree in other wealthy nations.
The Journal of the American Medical Association found rising mortality rates among US Children and Adolescents. Suicide, accidents, and addictions account for a significant amount of disease and premature death for our young people.
According to the study, American life expectancy is now lower that that of Cuba, Lebanon and Czechia.
One of the most depressing part of the study - this little factoid: “Even Americans with healthy behaviors, for example, those who are not obese or do not smoke, appear to have higher disease rates than their peers in other countries.
Some of the findings: “ Americans eat more calories and lack universal access to health care…There’s also higher child poverty, racial segregation, social isolation, and more.”
The study cited many causes of this discouraging dilemma including how readily available firearms are in this country. Other countries have more stringent controls over things like opioids, further contributing to our poor health and early death outcomes.
The worst part of the study? Virtually no one noticed. There was no governmental policy change, no real significant changes in our food supply lining grocery store shelves, no policy changes in the last ten years regarding purchase of firearms and closing loop holes. No taking toxic chemicals out of our food processing and supply. It’s been largely business as usual other than the disruption of a pandemic and the mental health crisis that ensued.
The study points to how many differing factors are at play contributing to the current climate we are experiencing in poorer health outcomes and premature death of people of all ages.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, and perhaps even outraged, then you are not alone as you are reading this.
At Live Well Kitsap, we strive to keep things cheery, while we write about relevant topics to address your health and wellbeing.
There are times however when a sobering dose of reality is needed.
Are we going to solve these problems through massive sweeping governmental policy change? Will corporate America swoop in with revelations, and swift adaptations to change this dismal outcome of the state of our health and now premature death ?
Who shall we count on? And when? Shall we just continue on with the political debates about gun control; “my rights”? An addict has a right to his addiction and continued addictive behaviors, but that does not make it beneficial.
How do we begin to address this? It is a lot to wrap our heads around, especially when most people’s problems and dissatisfactions are like the hand right in front of their face.
To be clear, the team at Live Well Kitsap does not have all the answers, in fact very few to address the myriad of complexities that we are dealing with as a nation.
We do have some thoughts to share in the form of “WHAT IF ? “
We began to deal with some of these problems at the community level?
What if we all made a pledge to pitch in and pick up trash, cleaning up the environment and reducing both dis- ease, and stress from living around so much discarded waste?
What if we all stopped being so isolated- confined to our own compounds and dealing with only our own nuclear families, and began reaching out- attending community events, checking in on our neighbors, having real conversations that sound like “how are you really doing?”
What if we invested ourselves in doing more research about our food- understanding that our government and food makers are not protecting us- the food on the grocery store shelves is laden with chemicals, pesticides, additives, hormones, sugar etc., but rather shifting our diets to more organic plant based foods that are local and life giving, supporting food co-ops that support local farmers such as Kitsap Fresh for example?
What if each of us took on one local charity helping to end the income and poverty inequality that befalls our community and other communities all over the USA? What if we all donated to food banks every month and not just during the holidays?
What if instead of being consumed with our RIGHTS, we focused more on our RESPONSIBILITIES to our own health and wellbeing, our families health and wellbeing and our collective community wellbeing?
What if we started seeing complacency as the disease that it is- that we stop accepting that which is unacceptable like alcohol and drug addiction, abuse, gun violence etc. What if we shift our mindset to controlling that which we can and ought to control like getting appropriate help if we are causing harm to others with our words or actions. We are aware that for those addicted to a substance not everyone wants help or can be helped… however how can we be helping more people to live clean and sober and restore life and health?
What if we started recognizing the root of issues rather than just dealing with them after the damage is done? What if we insisted that medical care can no longer just be focused around the alleviation of symptoms through drugs and surgery, but rather help people to discover the myriad ways they have the power to keep themselves healthier in mind, body and spirit?
What if we help people reconnect with themselves, their faith, their hopes, their strengths, their values so that daily living is not a daily grind, but rather an opportunity for growth, helping others, overcoming challenges and transforming together?
Does this all seem a little pie in the sky? Maybe. But at Live Well Kitsap we believe that each of us bears a responsibility to make this life, planet and community a little better while we are still here, for however long that may be.