OPINION – South Warwickshire Foundation Trust (SWFT) chief executive Glen Burley writes for the Observer about the important role we play in maintaining health and wellbeing, after an ‘eye-opening’ holiday.
I recently went on a family holiday, and during this trip was reminded of the important role we all play in maintaining our own health and wellbeing.
As chief executive of three trusts, I live and breathe the NHS. This means switching off is rare and even on holiday I continually think about the challenges facing healthcare and what needs to be done to solve problems and ensure a sustainable future for local health services.
Something that particularly struck me while staying in a hotel alongside other Brits was the impact our diets have on our health and the example we are setting future generations.
The trend for extra-wide sunbeds should have been a clue, but breakfast was a real eye-opener. I must admit to being totally shocked by both the volumes and what was available. Adults making unhealthy choices, with piles of pastries, sugary breakfast cereals, pancakes covered in syrup all totalling thousands of calories, which inevitably influences children and creates bad habits.
We are fast becoming one of the most overweight nations and the implications for the NHS are huge. In addition to health impacts such as diabetes, heart conditions, wear and tear on joints, all NHS services now have to provide bigger beds, chairs, and operating tables to cope with our super-sized population
SWFT’s strategy is centred on ‘helping you to help yourself’. Partners from health and social care, as well as the voluntary sector, all play key roles in transforming the NHS from an illness service to one of prevention. The trust have been strong advocates for this cultural shift for a long time and invested significantly in the care that is delivered outside of hospitals to support it.
I recently saw someone on the news talking about the cuts to local authorities’ public health budgets and how it is the root cause of the problem. While I agree spending money on health promotion can be a good thing, it doesn’t absolve each of us of the need to take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing. You don’t need a public health campaign to tell you that dosing children on sugar is a bad thing. As I witnessed on holiday, many of these bad habits are learned when we are young. We spend a lot of time getting nutrition right for infants but seem to lose focus as children get older when we can actually influence their habits more.
There are lots of things we can all do to improve our own health and wellbeing. Eating healthier and getting regular exercise has lots of long term benefits. Set the example and encourage your family and friends to do the same.