Letter: Nation must make changes to health programs, policies

To the editor:

Greetings! A new year! Yes, we can do better — moment by moment, day by day.

What have we done? As citizens, we have turned a blind eye as we watch yet more of our people on government programs fall into the downward health spiral. We stand silently as we start program after program that fail one by one. What happened? We have unintentionally approved and protected programs and policies that deprive people of the healthy worker effect.

What is the healthy worker effect? When I studied for my master’s in public health I learned that people who work are different from those who don’t work. When I studied for my PHD in public health I learned why — there are five ways a person’s health is positively impacted by working:

1. Physical health — forces physical activity, structure to the day.

2. Financial health — we get money when we work, learning cause and effect.

3. Social health  — forces interaction, maybe we learn if we smile, sometimes people smile back.

4. Emotional health —builds self-esteem, I can do this work.

5. Relational health  — learn by working together towards a common goal. We are all in this together.

How can we as humans continue to intentionally deprive people of work? How can we continue programs that decrease health?

What can we do now to change our programs and policies?

Ruth Ann Hendrix,

Student, farmer, mother,

community member