As my wife and I write about in ECOpreneuring, if good health is important – and it should be for everyone – then a regular exercise routine along with eating right becomes a feature in our sustainable lifestyle, whether you walk around the block, do yoga or work out three times a week at a local YMCA like we do. Or go for a hike in the woods instead of watching more TV.
Remember the last time you had the flu or a lingering cold? Get much done? When we’re healthy, we take our good health for granted. Despite what our politicians and healthcare providers might suggest, good healthcare does not necessarily provide good health. Our lifestyle and daily habits contribute to feeling great just about every day of the year.
Some companies provide a good healthcare plan when it comes to physician access and medical coverage. But what does that matter when the stress-filled, unhealthy environment in a cubicle – with no access to the outdoors and fresh air – ends up giving us poor health? The American healthcare system is great – perhaps the best in the world – if we crashed in our car. It’s designed for treatment, not prevention. It’s a healthcare system based on the poor health of relatively well-off people who can pay (by credit or otherwise) for the services it provides.
Given all the debate on a national healthcare plan offered by the United States, below are a few promising trends many people are discovering.
• Alternative healthcare and personal development is booming
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the fastest growing segment of the health and wellness movement – among the promising areas for ecopreneurs — is focused on preventative, alternative medicine. Many people are discovering that being healthy is largely not about medical care that treats patients after they’ve become sick, but rather practicing health and wellness care: exercising, eating right and living and working in places where toxic materials or substances are largely absent, if not eliminated, by the use of natural or green building materials like no VOC paints.
The explosive growth of naturopathy and homeopathy, complementary medicine, yoga and various “mind, body and spirit” products or services reflecting our growing awareness and need to care for ourselves. As it turns out, it’s a lot cheaper in the long run, which is why we believe organic food is a bargain compared to foods from farms that use chemicals or from companies that heavily process what we eat and stick them in fancy packages.
Caring for a rapidly aging population; growing, processing and retailing organic food; providing preventative and alternative medicine that are supplements or alternatives to traditional treatment-focused medical care are all on the rise. On a personal development level, demand for life, career and family coaches is growing as more people explore ways to reconnect with their passions, interests, partner and dreams. Personal development covers mind, body and spirit products such as CDs, books, tapes, seminars and various spiritual-related products and services. Yoga studios not only provide personal development on a fitness level, they also address spiritual and community needs. Representing this quest for self-inquiry and discovery, enrollment continues to rise at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, and the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, offering such workshops as “Introduction to Spiritual Activism: Cultivating Joy While Changing the World.”
• The business of wellness
What good is the touted company perk of “great healthcare” when what you’re doing is making you sick? A sustainable business provides the means by which the owners can strive to maintain good health, not just earn money. More and more employers or business owners are re-prioritizing the health and well being of themselves or their workers. They create work environments that offer day-lighting, use only natural cleaning products, provide plenty of fresh air with windows that actually open, or offer time for exercise at a gym or a walk in the park. A growing number of studies are finding increased productivity associated with these changes.
• Stress free living and happiness
Stress is a silent killer for many Americans, leading to all sorts of illnesses including IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and ulcers. Somewhere along the journey of life we’ve allowed the pursuit of happiness morph into the never-ending consumption of stuff which, of course, can never be completely satisfied.
Yet, by simplifying our lives, living below our means (not above them on credit), making due with what we have, and refocusing on happiness that comes from sharing time with friends and family, growing our own food, working on something we enjoy and which provides meaning and purpose as well as money, or enjoying a (free) concert in our community, we have discovered that much our stress can be avoided.
• Healthcare for all
When it comes down to it, no one can predict with accuracy an illness that we might endure based on hereditary factors or an influence from the environment in which we live. Perfectly healthy people do get cancer; some die. However, the time is growing near whereby the right of an American will also include access to affordable healthcare. In fact, among other developed nations, the United States is the only one that does not provide such healthcare directly (indirectly, no citizen can be refused medical treatment in a hospital; this could, however, bankrupt them). Despite all the talk about the dangers and problems with a federally administered healthcare plan, a large and growing number of Americans already have their healthcare directly or indirectly provided by the government, including nearly all of our seniors/retirees (through Medicare) and many working families who qualify for state-sponsored healthcare.
For example, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is available nationally to working families (with children) based on household earned income; Insure Kids Now links the nation’s children to affordable health insurance that often includes doctor visits, medication coverage and even checkup cleaning at the dentist for the whole family once a year; Cover the Uninsured was created to do the same thing. The state-sponsored healthcare program for working families is one way that being your own small business owner actually helps you secure better, more affordable healthcare coverage.
Several states, like Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Illinois, are also demonstrating leadership related to healthcare for their residents and may soon offer state-sponsored healthcare for all residents in need, whether or not they have children. According to Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, once fully implemented, the so-called BadgerCare Plus Core Plan will cover about 98 percent of the state’s residents. There are requirements, however; Wisconsin’s program that covers childless adults only covers people with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (for example, $29,130 for a married couple) and have been uninsured for more than a year without any other options for healthcare coverage. Another challenge is that some dental offices in Wisconsin refuse to accept the BadgerCare coverage, forcing people to travel hours away to a dental office that does.
Given the above, what have you found that sustains or enhances your good health?
Photography: Lisa Kivirist/innserendipity.com