Recently I attended a seminar sponsored by our health insurance provider. The seminar presented statistical data to demonstrate that our American lifestyle is the principal reason for poor health and high health care costs. The speaker, Steven Aldana, pointed out that “there is a huge gap between what is known scientifically about eating healthy and exercising and what citizens of the United States and other westernized countries actually do.” Obviously, the rising cost of health care is leading insurance underwriters to provide health education initiatives that will help control costs. I remembered my doctor telling me, “You should take off five pounds” at my last physical. I admit that is on my “to do” list.
Statistical data collated by the Center for Disease Control indicate how obesity has become an American epidemic in recent years. To see the CDC’s dramatic presentation of data from 1985 to 2009 just click here. Check out some of the analysis provided while you are there as well.
Poor nutrition and lack of exercise are known to shorten lifespan and lower the quality of our lives. Substance abuse, lack of exercise and obesity constitute today’s major causes of disease, shortened lives and high health care costs.
Since we care about our employees, last year we initiated a “Working on Wellness” program here at St. Anthony Messenger. We call it our WOW program. Our program was named by an employee whose entry won our office contest. Our WOW program offers services and activities within our budget.
In 2011 our WOW program already offered “biometric screening” and other opportunities for employees to take advantage of programs they consider beneficial for their personal health. Exercise programs, education about better nutrtion and smoking cessation are some of the offereings chosen.
“Healthful foods” are offered after employee meetings, snacks dubbed “WOW food,” are available in the lunchroom right next to the vending machines–for a price, of course. We hope that more exercise routines will be part of employee routines. Group support is crucial, so employees are encouraged to join together in their excercise activities. I believe our WOW program has been well received so far. Our WOW committee seems motivated and together we implemented some good ideas.
All these experiences remind me of Catholic teaching that we have a moral obligation to care for our personal health in relation to the fifth commandment. Little was usually said about good nutrition and temperance years ago. However, today’s Catechism of the Catholic Church #2288 summarizes the traditional principle for taking care of our health this way: “Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.”
The Catechism also points out that governments are required to promote the common good of their citizens by things like health care, education, housing, employment and social assistance. In a subsequent paragraph (#2290) the Catechism states that: “The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess—the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine.” There is no magic solution to our current health concerns, but we do need the will to change so that we can develop good habits with the help of God.
Clearly, taking care of our health is part of our duty as Christians. Yet, I wonder how clearly that teaching has penetrated the consciences of today’s Catholics. The statistics from the Center for Disease Control indicate that we Catholics need to do a better job in emphasizing our duty to take responsibility for our health.
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