Particularly since the new millennium, there has been a steady shift in the health care paradigm in terms of delivery and definition. Regardless of whether a country’s system is public, private or a hybrid of the two, it is undeniable that a pro-active approach to health is desirable and it is interesting to note the burgeoning growth of facilities focused on wellness and prevention.

Rules and regulations designed to ensure our physical safety have become tighter and more structured as good health becomes not only a human prerogative, but a societal responsibility. For example; in many Canadian provinces, helmets are a requirement of all cyclists regardless if riding with motor or pedal power, and the mandatory use of car seatbelts has long been the law. While some may lament the loss of their freedom of choice; one only has to tally up the long-term costs of treating a brain-injured person to understand that the right to feel the wind in one’s hair carries relatively little weight when hospitals are struggling to meet their budgetary bottom-lines.

As the incidence of type II diabetes, cancer and coronary artery disease continues to keep pace with the pathological proliferation of fast-food outlets, numerous jurisdictions endeavour to limit the use of trans-fats and sugared drinks. So-called ‘smoking sections’ stretch farther and farther apart as laws restricting public smoking become ever more comprehensive. There is even ongoing public debate over ratifying the accountability of parents in terms of their children’s overall health.

Whether or not one is a proponent of state-imposed health and safety legislation, it is nigh impossible to escape the writing on the wall. In order to keep ourselves and our healthcare systems functioning optimally, we must acknowledge both our individual and civic duty to uphold holistic wellness practices as much as possible. If it follows that a cohort of health-minded people can create a thriving village in which to live, then perhaps it behoves us all to campaign for our wellness in an enthusiastic manner.

There is a strong precedent for approaching health with an attentive mind-set. Many automobile owners already conform to a strict timeline when it comes to the maintenance of their cars as undeniably, the simple act of regularly replacing oil and spark plugs greatly enhances both the longevity and functionality of the engine. We need to apply this same logic and attitude to our own internal motors. For instance, it is common knowledge that the human body requires various nutrients in varying proportions in order to operate at a maximum level yet all too often, we opt for foods that satisfy a yen for maximum flavours, but yield minimal benefits. Would it ever occur to us to substitute soda for petrol when filling the tanks of our cars?

It is a sad reality of our time that many children know not where food originates other than on the shelves of the supermarket. Crunching a carrot freshly freed from the soil is becoming one of those sweet anachronisms reserved for our parents and remarkably, some kids actually believe that these veggies arrive in a bag as perfectly-peeled little tubes of orange. In a time where we often select our meals based purely on their gustatory bang, is it any wonder that perceiving our food as fuel to function is a thing of the past?

This growing disconnect from our dietary sources also crosses over into how we perceive our health status. It is somehow easier to rely on pills and potions to cure the ills that befall us rather than taking steps to avoid what got us there in the first place. If we don’t actively seek the ‘whys and wherefores’ of our health issues, then how can we hope to avoid them? This reactive response to unwellness is counterintuitive and clearly, we need to take charge of the basic things within our control.

It is simply appalling that largely preventable ‘adult’ diseases such as type II diabetes are now being diagnosed in children, often as a result of too many calories and too few calisthenics. The long-term ramifications of this disease can be horrendous for the child and enormously impactful to the healthcare system. It is no wonder that health ministries world-wide cite type II diabetes as one of the most parasitic consumers of its fiscal resources.

Encouraging healthy lifestyles that include physical movement and nutritious food choices must start during a child’s formative years. If we wish to curb the incidence of disease in a meaningful way, we must educate our young ones by providing age-appropriate theory; initiated by parents, reinforced by teachers and supported by the powers that be.

The same applies to smoking and alcohol-related illnesses. Conveying the dangers of smoking before children are tempted to light up is surely more effective than retroactively seeking a way to curb the craving. Young minds have a remarkable capacity to absorb very complicated concepts provided they are presented in a relatable, simple format and a solid understanding of our own bodies should be the underpinning of any educational program. If along with their lunch-boxes, we sent our kids off to school each morning with a tool-box full of basic health and wellness skills, it would help drive the positive decisions that only awareness can bring.

It is no doubt that educational hours are at a premium like never before, with educators struggling to sufficiently address every facet of their curriculum; but empowering children to develop a healthy way of living is the giant step forward that every society needs to take.