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Any discussion about improving our healthcare system must acknowledge the important role that is played by people caring for themselves and their loved ones. The most important step we can take to improve the healthcare system is to support and inspire an informed and widespread level of personal care.
Major health issues are related to behavior—smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, exercise, even safe driving. Other health issues must be addressed partly through behavior, including remembering to take medications.
Addressing public health problems such as obesity is often viewed as the responsibility of government, medical professionals or fast food chains. But these problems should also be addressed by individuals working to change their own behavior.
Yet, when we do turn to individuals to improve their own health habits, we often overlook the real potential in ensuring their success via support groups of friends and co-workers, and via support mechanisms such as community institutions and social traditions.
Al Gore's message calling for us all, as individuals and collectively, to be responsible for our planet, resonates in this instance. We can all take responsibility to safeguard our health. We need a culture of healthy people in a healthy world.
How do we realize this vision?
Building on the tradition of setting aside a time for New Year's resolutions, we can promote lifestyle change with the use of “First Day” celebrations, which will convey health information and will draw forth personal commitments to healthier living.