Though significant improvements to health can be achieved through policy change (making healthier choices the default option) and through the smart use of behavioral economic principles (like rewards and incentives), many health promotion programs suffer from an inherent bias: they primarily help only those who are ready to help themselves. People who are “pre-contemplative” and not yet considering behavior change are overlooked.
This is a troublesome situation. Any program or organization committed to health should make a conscious effort to “recommit to serving the most vulnerable” people, as Project Renewal recently did. By constantly striving to reach the toughest and most recalcitrant of cases, we as a society will avoid the complacency and poundage associated with simply “cream-skimming.”
After a long day at the office or the hospital, when I am mentally wiped out, going for a bike ride or lifting weights at the gym is often the last thing that I want to do. I also don’t want to go grocery shopping, make dinner, or plan lunch for the next day. I definitely don’t want to take the time to floss. Happy hour, sitting on the couch and watching Netflix, or trying out a new restaurant with friends sound much more appealing.
This problem is shared by all – we are constantly bombarded with messages and forced to make short-term decisions that may conflict with long-term health goals. Eat healthy, but try the KFC Double Down. Go to the gym, but have you marathon-watched that new season of House of Cards yet?
Living a “healthy” lifestyle – however defined – takes work and energy. (more…)