Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, June 05, 2017

Dedicated Philanthropy

"In twelve years in City Hall, life expectancy increased by three years."
"A friend of mine once said the way to stop smoking is to close y our eyes, think about the person you dislike the most. Now, do you want to be at their funeral or you want them to be at yours?"
"You have 80 percent [of the health-aware public] that want you to stop smoking. Zero percent want you to stop being obese."
Michael Bloomberg, founder, Bloomberg News, former New York City mayor
Obesity and Non-Communicable Diseases: How Alarming is the Rising Trend?

When Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York, the health-conscious man, now 76 years of age, began smoking-cessation campaigns, focused on attempting to education the public on the harms of consuming trans fats, and on the benefits they could realize to their health outcomes by exercising more and eating more natural, nutritious whole foods in the lifestyle choices they make. And so, he contends that his example, emphasizing prevention of failing health made a difference in enough peoples' lives that it affected life expectancy in the city's population.

No longer mayor, he continues to focus on public health, and uses his great wealth to fund initiatives to move the public toward making better lifestyle choices for themselves. His focus and his work gained the attention of the World Health Organization who invited him to be a global ambassador for non-communicable diseases. That, and his own organization, Partnership for Healthy Cities which provides funding to local governments worldwide trying to implement civic approaches to aid people sustain healthy lifestyles makes him an authority on the subject.

The emphasis being local governments who collect taxes from those they govern and using those taxes among other things to dissuade people from practising health-harmful habits. Municipal bylaws against indoor smoking, against advertising sugary drinks for children and making them available in school cafeterias help the situation. So does the construction of public green spaces like community parks and of bicycle lanes emphasizing recreation, and planting trees to cleanse the air.

Traffic injuries represent the tenth leading cause of death globally in 2015 according to the World Health Organization, and local governments have the authority to implement traffic policies that address this and other similar issues. The emphasis is on preventable harm that people through their lifestyles, do to themselves. Smoking cessation represented one success in fighting the prevalence of lung cancer. Now the biggest public menace to health and the cause of chronic diseases is obesity.

At a time when communicable diseases like AIDS, malaria, West Nile and Zika are apprehended once they cut a swath causing deaths in susceptible populations, when biomedical research rushes to come up with inoculations against their deadly effect, it is non-communicable, lifestyle diseases that are devastating populations. Like heart disease, stroke, respiratory ailments and diabetes. Some are partially hereditary but lifestyle plays a huge role in their onset.

Through his charitable organization, Mr. Bloomberg has committed over $800 million over the next six years to encourage local governments to focus on improving lifestyle and outcomes for their citizens. The fact that in many countries smoking rates have been successfully diminished through specific programs aimed at encouraging smoking cessation, but the epidemic of obesity that has hit globally is not receiving the attention it deserves seems frustratingly lethargic to this man.

The public hesitates to condemn or criticize others whose choices in life make them susceptible to non-communicable diseases. Other peoples' eating and sedentary habits are intimate, personal, and to intercede seems an unwarranted intrusion. But he believes that people abuse themselves because they are oblivious to the harm they do to their bodies. Intercession on the part of government, he feels, is one part of the answer.

The other, greater part of the answer, needless to say, should be personal responsibility aided by the wish to be healthy, and to recognize what it is we do that makes us unhealthy, and then to resolve to do things differently.

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