Healthy outlook gets lambasted

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Though his message came off as blunt, Nova Scotia’s health minister struck some valid points about the need for people to take more responsibility for their health.

Leo Glavine has faced some criticism for his remarks, in a commentary published in the King’s County Register, arguing that individuals – and the health care system – would face less of an uphill battle if people were more proactive about their health. That includes avoiding the pitfalls, such as smoking and an inactive lifestyle, along with eating healthier.

Although Glavine’s views met agreement from some, the backlash came from opposition politicians – naturally – and others who claimed the remarks missed key factors deciding who is healthy and why.

And that’s the way it goes. Sometimes the truth hurts.

A main point made by the minister is that people need to follow the advice of doctors and dietitians when it comes to getting exercise and eating the right foods. Ignoring that advice adds strain to an already overburdened system.

A proactive approach to health is a little like regularly scheduled maintenance. If you wait until something is broken, it takes a lot to fix it, and sometimes it’s too late.

The criticisms of the minister’s comments included the charge that social factors are the determinants of a person’s health. That’s true to a degree, when it comes to getting needed medical attention.

But some of the response is puzzling, such as claims that getting good nutrition is a costly endeavour. Sadly, they’re missing the point that nutritionists have been trying to get across to people: that all sort of whole foods – beans, whole grains, vegetables, simple meat cuts – are available for a lot less money than highly processed foods.

This is a matter of a message. Some people already get it, but for some it needs repeating – and thus, a reminder from the health minister.

People don’t have to take Glavine’s word on the merits of proactive health care. They can ask any doctor.

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