Wed 28 Feb 2018 - posted by Chris Coghlan
Working Healthy or Healthy Working?
I’m not sure where to start in terms of the subject of this blog; health and the workplace. It’s a subject that I’m passionate about and the enormity and complexity of the subject is probably endless. I’ve got to start somewhere so I might as well start with the basics, the basics that will of course be wrapped up in my own bias.
My assumption is that we all want to be healthy and most want to be healthier - our bodies are hard wired to always be working towards optimal health. Optimal health (mind and body) means we can perform to the best of our ability whatever task we are carrying out. As a manager, the healthier my colleagues are the better they can perform. I should also say that this is not about people not being good at their jobs because they are unhealthy but being the best they can be even more of the time. If people are working at optimal health this surely benefits the business.
The question is, who is responsible for ensuring people are working at optimal health? Is it the responsibility of the employer, the government, the individual or maybe all of them?
For this blog I have chosen to talk about food as this always seems to be hot topic in the office.
A study commissioned by Cancer Research UK in 2018 found that as rates of cancer linked to smoking are declining, those linked to being overweight or obese are increasing (jumping 0.7% since 2011). In 2015 The Health and Social Care Information Centre reported that 10% of the NHS drugs bill was used to buy medication for treating diabetics.
Maybe it’s easiest to say it is the responsibility of the individual, but that surely presumes that the individual is getting health advice that they can act upon to improve their health. Is the health advice given to the nation actually good advice? I believe its poor advice based upon bad science.
There are multiple examples of this but one that, in my opinion, is a big advantage to the food industry rather than the health of the consumer is that much of our dietary advice is based upon calories in versus calories out e.g. if you eat more than you burn off, you’ll gain weight. So the advice from Public Health England is to monitor our calories (kcals) to ensure we are not consuming too many or too few, both of which can potentially harm our health long term.
What gets lost with this advice is the quality of the food we eat. As an adult male does this mean I can eat 2500kcals of sweets and I’m good for the day? Common sense tells us not, but with most packaged and processed foods displaying the calorie contents on the packet, it makes the whole calorie counting idea easy with the added advantage of the food being convenient. But does this make the food any healthier?
Throw on top of this initiatives such as ‘5 a day’ ‘eat well plate’, ‘sugar tax’, ‘400/600/600’, ‘100 calorie snacks’ and you’ll find there is a lot of “advice” that is contradictory and confusing. Our society is getting sicker, our years of optimal health are becoming shorter so maybe we need to make the advice far more simple… Let’s just eat ‘real food’ as close to how nature intended as possible, food that contains the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that nature intended for us.
It’s hard to judge to what extent individuals are responsible for their own health when the advice and environment promotes a way of eating that we simply are not designed for.
If this blog has been of interest to you I can recommend this presentation by Dr David Unwin.