Herald-Sun editorial: Moving forward on health and wellness

Jan. 07, 2013 @ 11:35 AM

Whatever it is in human nature that causes people to plan new year’s resolutions, that impulse seems to be most present in those who desire to get healthier and lose weight.

Nationwide TV programs, such as “20/20,” run specials that depict success stories, formerly obese men and women who have dropped staggering amounts of weight – and in some cases, have kept it off for extended periods.

Any number of fitness and health events have been planned around the new year, the time when gym memberships – and traffic – increase, and so many people pledge to do more to be healthy.

One such program was Fun Fitness Week from Durham Parks and Recreation, which began Sunday and wraps up on Saturday. Lunch-and-learn events cover “A Case for Breakfast,” “Jump Start Your Heart with Walking and Jogging,” “Diabetes and Weight,” “Inside Out Nutrition” and “Osteoporosis – Treasure Your Bones.” Participants are enjoying free recreational swimming, an aquatics fitness expo and aerobics classes.

Durham Parks and Recreation offers a number of activities all year long, and more information on those can be found at http://durhamnc.gov/ich/op/prd/Pages/Fitness.aspx. Wellness packages include unlimited access to classes for a monthly fee and workouts at fitness centers: Campus Hills Wellness Center on Alston Avenue, Walltown Wellness Center on West Club Boulevard, and other locations.

On a national scale, fighting obesity and promoting healthier eating and lifestyles have become divisive issues. Virtually everyone agrees that it is a serious problem, but the differences come in how solutions are approached.

A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research offers some interesting insight into how Americans think government should play a role in these matters.

One third of those responding say the government should play a major role in stemming obesity, another third are neutral, and one third say the government should stay out of it. Among popular ideas backed by a majority of people are requiring more physical activity in schools, and requiring calorie counts on restaurant menus.

Six in 10 people oppose extra taxes on unhealthy foods.

Only a third of those responding say that obesity is a community problem; most say that individuals are responsible for their health.

It is a complex issue, because both assertions are true: individuals are responsible, but we have created a culture and society in which unhealthy food is cheap, available and heavily marketed, and sedentary lifestyles are commonplace. That momentum is beginning to shift, but governments and residents must partner together to work on providing opportunities and information that promote more healthy ways of life – as Durham and other communities here are doing. That effort will save money on health care costs and related expenses in the long run.