Occupational Health: We Need to Do More

Hi all and welcome back to the Get Constructive blog!

Today’s post is part article and part disorganised rant with the central message cutting right to the core of the Get Constructive mission. We are talking about occupational health and where we believe employers, industry and even medical professionals have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to advising professionals on their health and wellbeing.

The rant starts with an excerpt from an actual occupational health plan for an organization that currently employs more than 20,000 staff;

excerpt

You have no doubt seen similar material around your office, on your employer’s webpage or even across office noticeboards, putting the organisation’s focus on your health out in plain view for all to appreciate.

I have not only reviewed similar information produced by a number of prestigious organizations, but I have even heard it in the doctor’s surgery. This was last year during a compulsory medical assessment for work when the nurse (overweight herself) told me all of my indicators were ‘normal’ but I should “…make sure I eat breakfast as it is the most important meal of the day…” and “…to avoid frying my foods…”.

Now many of you may be thinking- what is the punch line here? What is actually wrong with this advice? To answer this I first encourage a read through my previous posts and second I want to make very clear- I am not contradicting the advice of your doctor or workplace. The fact that most organizations are doing something is a positive in itself- I just firmly believe that they need to do more. 

The utterly generic and dated approach outlined above has since been superseded by a huge amount of modern study and literature, making healthy eating and living easier and more practical than ever before. The health conscious population have all of this at their finger tips via social media and the internet, so why isn’t this information making its way to those most in need of specific, efficient and practical health and fitness advice?

By sitting an obese individual down, telling them they are obese based only on their BMI and then force feeding them the health advice version of baby food, only makes the individual defensive and raises the walls of insecurity that stand between them and real advice that could actually improve or even lengthen their life.

It is actually sad seeing these workplace initiatives fail because they take time and money to implement and they have proven effective in rare occasions by identifying serious undiagnosed illnesses for employees- in extreme cases leading to lifesaving surgery. This means the potential is there to help the most extreme of cases against rare and silent killers, so why not do more to stop the mass murderer right in front of us?

We are still so far behind when it comes to stopping the long term suicide caused by poor health choices.

Coming from a construction background, I have seen so much done in the area of occupational safety. We know through behavioural study, that people will take shortcuts that lead to unsafe behaviour and workplace accidents. Likewise, I have seen the tremendous work done by depression and suicide help organizations to help those with depression find the right support resources and prevent potential self-harm. We are willing to work our hardest to safeguard and protect our colleagues from workplace accidents or depression-related self harm but we are still so far behind when it comes to stopping the long term suicide caused by poor health choices.

There are some true geniuses currently operating in the area of health and fitness. The Kelly Starretts, John Berardis, Layne Nortons, Chris Kressers, Mark Sissons and Robb Wolfs of the world are all examples of academics and practitioners right at the cutting edge of their health-related fields, yet to me it seems like their material is reserved for those already operating in the realm of health and fitness and those charged with our every-day wellbeing are still referring to the 1960’s health handbook.

It might be the harsh truth to say “no one got fat by accident” and simply put it down to an individual’s choice to eat poorly, drink alcohol and be overweight – but this is also a cop out. This may apply to a percentage of the obese and unhealthy, but I am willing to bet that for each happily fat or clinically obese person at your workplace, there is at least one other unhappy obese employee with goals to be better. Goals that have been abandoned as hopeless, due in part to lazy science and a lack of personal, practical advice.

Today has identified a problem and it may read as a shot at some good and important people in our society. I hope it is instead taken as a call to action and a chance to work harder at building health and wellbeing communities based on up-to-date and practical information within our workplace. This is what Get Constructive is all about. We aren’t just here to shoot the shit about macros and to tell you not to skip leg day- we are here to encourage not just those with work to do, but also those that have already achieved their goals, to stand up as ambassadors and pull the stragglers along. It’s time to do more.

Thanks for reading and as always hit me back in the comments or via email. GC

 

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