Ethical question # 5: health test

DSCN2343‘How do you take responsibility for your health?’

THE fifth of the Kerferd Oration committee’s eight questions to encourage Indigo citizens and communities to think about ethics in the lead-in to the July 19 oration in Beechworth this week explores attitudes to health.

The 2015 oration is to be delivered by Sydney ethicist Simon Longstaff.

Beechworth Health Service (BHS) health promotion officer Anna Mackinlay (pictured) took the challenge of answering question five outside Beechworth Post Office on Monday’s chilly morning: “How do you take responsibility for your health?”

“Working and volunteering in health in the past 10 years has led me to believe that our health and well-being really is our biggest asset,” Ms Mackinlay said.

“Possessions, careers, wealth – none of it is as important if poor health prevents you from enjoying life.

“We know that with some health issues that it’s the luck of the draw and none of us knows what’s around the corner.

“But we also know that for many health issues there are steps we can take as individuals to reduce risks.

“This is where I believe we have the opportunity to take responsibility for our health.

“At BHS, where I work, the focus of health promotion is working with primary schools and in early childhood settings to put in place strategies to encourage healthy eating and increased physical activity.

“We are also working with Landcare, North East Catchment Management Authority and Indigo Shire Council about how we can access healthy and affordable local food.”

Ms Mackinlay said that people will buy and eat fresh, local food – but affordability could be an issue.

“We do have high rates of people accessing emergency food relief, so it’s one thing to make the choice to eat healthily but it has to be affordable,” she said.

“The fact that we don’t have the big fast food chains here is really vital to the health of the community.

“In Wodonga it really saddens me that in the White Box Rise area it’s all been planned to encourage kids to walk to school but I’ve heard anecdotes of parents not letting kids walk because they’re sick of them going to the Hungry Jacks that’s there.

“Indigo’s resistance to the encroachment of corporate fast food outlets is something that we should hold as a great value.”

Ms Mackinlay said that being physically active, eating well and maintaining a healthy body weight were keys to the prevention of about one third of cancers and other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

“Eating healthily, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are also linked to better mental health,” she said.

“For me and my family, this means taking the time to prioritise our health, so thinking more about the food we are putting on the table and also finding time in our day to go for a walk or do some exercise is part of that.

“It sounds simple but with a busy life I don’t find this easy – especially in Beechworth in winter when days are short and cold.

“As a small community, perhaps we also have some level of responsibility to foster good health and well-being in the wider community.

“Being understanding and empathetic about how health issues can affect others and their families is probably a good start.

“An example of this is the dementia friendly community project that is under way in Beechworth.”

The oration is named in recognition of the community service of George Kerferd, a nineteenth century Beechworth municipal chairman and later a solicitor and colonial government minister who became premier.

It is now in its 13th year – is a free community event and will be held at George Kerferd Hotel from 10.15am.

This post is reprinted from the ‘Ovens and Murray Advertiser’, which is supporting the oration by publishing each question of the week.

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