“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.” ~ Cesar Chavez – November 9th, 1984
Health nor healthcare will never be the same again. Some may attribute this change to Obamacare while others may attribute it to the imminent need to save money in a nation that is overwhelmed by $60 trillion in debt and healthcare costs, hovering $3 trillion per year, which are projected to increase at a rate of 6% per year between 2015 and 2023. But are these really the true sources of the transformation of the health and healthcare universes?
What many fail to understand is that the rising unsustainable costs may have been what triggered and motivated the entire conversation around healthcare but in reality a silent revolution has been taking place that is going to transform health in the United States which in turn will alter the healthcare landscape.
Let’s distinguish between health and healthcare. Health is a state of wellness and healthcare, as it stands today, is the provisioning of health services to those that are ill.
To be healthy you must live a healthy lifestyle. In a country where “work ethics” refers to overworking yourself and sacrificing yourself and your family from quality time in order to enjoy and fulfill your desires it’s almost impossible to be healthy; people forgo vacation; weekends end up being “catch-up” time for many, I include myself in this category.
More than half of the United States adult population (117 million) have a chronic disease. More than 25% of the same adult population have more than 1 chronic disease.
Diabetes and congestive heart failure are two diseases that can be linked to unhealthy lifestyle choices. But while many want to link these to diet and lack of exercise only, the main culprit is generally an unhealthy workstyle.
During this last decade, and of which I’ve been in the US, many of my colleagues would eat just to fuel their body. When I lived and worked in the Caribbean and South America, lunch was a very important time that I would share with my colleagues, business associates and customers to discuss and plan our activities for the rest of the day. It wasn’t uncommon to spend up to two hours enjoying a good meal and coffee.
There’s a big difference to your body on what it intakes and how it intakes it. If you eat fast food in a fast way, just to get you back to your desk chair, you are just poisoning yourself slowly and surely. If you eat quality food while sharing quality time with your colleagues you are nurturing your body, mind and soul.
A good diet and sufficient exercise increment your productivity. If you have sluggish moments after lunch where you have to caffeinate yourself to get through the last few hours there is no way in the world that you are being productive and this probably explains why you have to work several more hours a day to keep up with your duties. Work smart but not hard.
For most people, exercise is the activity that takes place while you walk from your car to your office and back. This doesn’t work well when you park as close as possible to the building’s entry. Some try to compensate by using the stairs and elevators, but unfortunately, this isn’t enough activity to constitute what defines exercise for health promotion. I’ve been driving since I arrived at the United States; while in the Caribbean I would probably use my car once a month or even less. I would walk from my home to work and vice-versa. If I would have had a step counter gadget back then it would have probably “fried” after a few weeks.
Most people work while sitting down all day. This is extremely unhealthy. Developing neuropathy is not uncommon for people that don’t stand up and exercise often and if you are a diabetic this will happen sooner than later. Most people that are sedentary in the office are the same at home.
You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read.
Knowing all of the previous facts then why can’t we change to do the right things?
We can change and we are changing. There is a true silent revolution that is reshaping the nation. People are becoming educated about what they eat and what activities they are performing and how these have a direct impact on their well-being. Many are changing the way they eat as well.
Today you find workplace cafeterias with a broad selection of healthy food. No longer are a burger or pizza joint the quick near-work options. Health oriented grocery stores have evolved and prospered to the point that traditional grocery stores are expanding the healthy options, including organics. Most new chains and franchises that are opening nowadays have a healthy spin to them.
The Internet also brought along a plethora of information that was inaccessible in the past. There are many health websites that promote healthy choices for better living. No longer are we limited to the pharmaceutical moguls ads that promoted the use of a certain medication that could help in allowing us to collect sea shells during a beach walk.
Companies are rethinking the way employees work. Lunch meetings, although not commonplace, are starting to happen. Walk and think meetings, my favorite, are becoming an interesting way of mixing healthy exercise with creative thinking.
When designing office spaces more emphasis is taken on exercise gyms and recreational areas. While in the past the norm was standing up artificial walls and creating cubicle work spaces, today we are thinking about collaborative environments with no walls. Words like ambiance and atmosphere are the main qualifiers and before they were productivity and privacy.
You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride.
Once people recognize the fact that they deserve to live a plentiful and healthy life things will change at a faster pace. Our baby boomer population will really make us stand and reflect. Was it worth it working for decades only to reach retirement age to overburden our healthcare system and further push the nation into debt?
The baby boomer population will be the longest living one of most other generations but they will also be the most unhealthy ones with many of them suffering of more than one chronic disease.
This is clearly the reason why the government and many other sectors, including the private ones, pushed us towards this healthcare reform movement and maybe just a little too late.
It is ironic that the government and the private sectors haven’t come together to promote healthy living. An unhealthy population is a national safety issue.
There is no value in becoming old, sick and poor. As a nation we have become old, since a huge percentage of our population is reaching the age of 65 with our baby boomers; the facts indicate that 117 million of us are sick; and with a combined national debt of almost $60 trillion we are definitely poor.
You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.
But like all revolutions there are those that embrace the changes and those that resist them. We will still have colleagues and co-workers that place little value on improving their health and well-being. We will have managers that could care less about the health and well-being of those that work for them. This is what is called a counter-revolution. While many people think that a revolution is often an event that is fueled by violence and war, actually the great majority of the revolutions are silent and peaceful journeys from the undesired state to the desired one. Counter-revolutions are the ones that bring about blood-baths in their attempt to maintain status quo and retain power.
But counter-revolutions typically occur when the revolution is initially evolving. But once a true revolution reaches its tipping point seldom do counter-revolutions occur. And this is exactly where we are now. Our silent true revolution has reached a point of maturity where there is no way back. We face no “contras” out there.
Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.
A very good news is that our true silent revolution has brought us to a point of no return. Some people will continue to live in unhealthy ways. We will never be able to change this fact. But there are many things we can do to spread the new ways of our revolution.
If you are an employee without managing power you can evangelize within your peers networks ways to improve health at work. You can promote exercise sprints, walk and think meetings, work lunch meetings and other activities with the goal of improving lifestyle.
If you are a manager you can help your employees create the programs in alignment with their work so that they have the ultimate effect of enhancing both lifestyle and workstyle. Enable them to choose their own ways to accomplish success. When rules aren’t given to people, people tend to create them so that they suit their needs, which is a good thing.
Healthy people are happy and happy people are highly motivated and productive. Why don’t you seek this?
Avoid rewarding those that overwork themselves because they appear to be out performers while they are holding the team’s productivity behind. They are easy to recognize because they will constantly remind you of how many hours they work and how long they’ve gone with unhealthy situations. While in the surface they appear to be the hardcore ethic worker they are really searching for “brownie” points. For these particular personalities it’s better to come up with other reward approaches that encourage their participation in a healthy lifestyle fashion. You must also avoid these folks in management roles because they will break your team down and the burnout and attrition will follow.
Long before telecommuting existed as a word I had created a program in my company where developers could work anywhere they wanted. All they had to do was attend bi-weekly alignment meetings so that we could all get on the same page. Before long, we had pseudo-offices in the mountains, islands and other havens. All of them well-organized and collaborative. And guess what? We didn’t have Internet back then! Yes, once upon a time, there was no Internet.
As a final note: don’t expect organizations, whether public or private, that make a living or a profit, directly or indirectly, from treating unhealthy people to be active participants of the true silent revolution. They wouldn’t exist without unhealthy people and they don’t know how to make a business out of healthy people.
There are companies and organizations out there that are striving to make a business out of healthy people. Keep an eye out for fashionable wearables. Sometimes, silent revolutions happen all at once. This is what we denominate an emancipation.