Soapbox Philosophy: Leave health decisions up to individuals
by Gregory R. Norfleet · Op-Ed · April 05, 2013

The report released in late March on Cedar County’s overall health is worth a closer look, in that it should interest readers with all the different factors the researchers consider important — at least, that it can measure — toward our holistic wellness.

Check out the information yourself at — you can look at Cedar County or any county in which you have ever lived, even in other states.

Smoking, the percentage of fast-food restaurants, inactivity, excessive drinking, health insurance, social support, violent crime rates — it can be hard enough for one to keep track of all the things we ought to do — and not do — to try to keep up our health. But anyone with something for which to live, someone they care about, should use that as motivation to try.

In our nation’s effort to improve personal health and extend our life expectancy, two movies I’ve seen recently — Renaissance and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter — come to mind. Both touched upon a similar thought: That without death, life is meaningless. The observation seemed profound at first, but I eventually concluded that I disagree. Life continues to have meaning, but it would be as easy for one to devalue their own life without end as it would a rich guy to devalue money.

Until we all find an easy way to optimize our health, we still want to live as long as possible, but we want to enjoy life, too.

I’m of the mindset that, yeah, I want to live a healthy lifestyle and eat healthy, and my wife and I want to teach the boys to exercise, etc. But I don’t want to spend a lot of time counting calories, reading labels, keeping logs, checking Web sites and basically letting “life” pass me by. I would rather make small changes here and there, slowly weaning myself off bad habits, than making sudden changes that turn me into a grouch or screw up my priorities.

The health report wants us all to be aware of the fragility of life and to educate ourselves on how to eat better, to exercise and to get the right amount of sleep.

I would rather a system that taught us target weights, optimum heart rates, ingredient alternatives, etc. than one that took away our Big Gulps, banned restaurants from serving transfats or schools from selling sugared drinks in vending machines.

Yes, obesity is a problem and everyone knows it is unhealthy. If government wants to do something to change our behavior and lower medical spending on treating obesity, then I guess I would prefer things like “sin” taxes, like those on cigarettes and alcohol.

Anyway, I like the information provided in County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. I also like that it compares our county to others, giving healthy living a competitive feel.

I wish I could say I was purely driven by the carrot, and not the whip. But I can’t. Still, I would rather a world that leaves me with the decisions on how to improve my — and my family’s — health, than simply taking things away and requiring me to live in a nanny state.

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