NEW Year's Eve has always been a time for looking back over the past, and forward to the year ahead. It's a time to reflect on the changes we need to make. Last year produced some stressful times with job losses, tax increases and pay cuts the order of the day. Many of us now are looking to 2010, analysing our expenditure and figuring out where we can make savings.
One of the first areas to come under scrutiny is whether or not to re-invest in your gym or health regime. This very topic was discussed in Leinster House a few weeks ago. On the eve of the toughest Budget since the foundation of the State, the Dail gym advertised for a professional fitness instructor. This caused outrage in certain quarters, as Fine Gael TD Michael Ring (below right) launched a stinging attack on the decision.
"Given the climate we're in, I believe the gym should be closed down altogether. It's a luxury we can do without," he said.
It is disturbing to hear that some TDs consider the tools of obtaining fitness a luxury. Health and fitness are the tides that raise the ships in every area of our life. If everyone improved their health and fitness, we would drastically reduce absenteeism from work due to illness. The numbers afflicted with cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer would also be decreased, and this would lead to the reduction of expenditure in our health service. The Dail gym cost €34,438 to operate last year, and in my opinion that is money well spent if it means our leaders can address their own health and fitness issues.
Dr Patrick Doorley, HSE national director of public health, said in 2008 that much illness, disability and death is caused by chronic conditions, which have risk factors that can be reduced. We should thus concentrate our efforts and resources on reducing these risk factors.
Niamh Mullen carried out a survey of GPs across the country. They believed that obesity was the greatest long-term health threat facing the Irish population. In 2007, 59pc of men and 41pc of women self-reported themselves as either being overweight or obese.
In 2008, Health Minister Mary Harney announced that the total public health expenditure had risen from €5.7bn in 2000 to over €15.2bn in 2008 and that capital expenditure had increased by 192pc between 1998 to 2007. In-patient admissions increased by 16pc, and day cases went up by 148pc to over 600,000 per year. As this crisis deepens, it highlights the need for continuing efforts to improve health and lifestyle among young people.
Setting an example
Resources are needed to educate and encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles. Our Government can help by leading by example and "being the change they want to see", as Mahatma Gandhi once said.
Unfortunately some of our TDs do not appear to want to be leaders in health, to be the change they want to see. Although 15 politicians have signed up to take part in RTE's series Operation Transformation, I fear this is more for the publicity than to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
You need to take control of your life and be the change you want to see. Stephen Covey, in his book, First Things First, talked about the big rocks principle. When filling a container with rocks, pebbles, sand and water, put the big rocks in first, then the pebbles, sand and water. The smaller pebbles and sand will fit easily between the big rocks and the sand will absorb water.
If you fill the container with the sand and pebbles first, there will be no room for the rocks. The big rocks represent what is most important in life, like your family and health. These should come first, before the pebbles, sand and water like your job. If you put it in reverse, you will have no space for your family or your health. To prove the point, just look at obituaries. I have yet to read that someone's dying wish was to get back to the office. We regret not spending enough time with our family or looking after our health.
You have the power to change that now, you just need to start. There is no better time to start than now.