The Power of Choice

a yellow and black sign sitting on the side of a road
The impact from one individual is small, to be sure, but when enough people start making a certain kind of choice, the environment adapts. 

By Dave Hendry, Co-Founder, eSavvyHealth 

I learned this morning that the average lifespan of the US population has dropped substantially over the past two years, and at 76.1 years is currently lower than 50 other nations of the world. Although the drop in lifespan is very recent, the drop in relative ranking of US lifespan in comparison to other countries is a decades-long trend, well documented in a National Institute of Health Report Shorter Lives, Poorer Health.

The report attributes this trend to many causes—child poverty, social isolation, lifestyle, the state of the public health and medical system, and more. It estimates the annual cost of poor health in the U.S. at $100 billion. The report’s recommendation was, essentially, to look at what those other countries are doing, and do that. 

Those recommendations have not yet been followed. The reasons for that are mostly related to the operations of large organizations and governmental and political entities. But I’d like to focus on something else—the decisions of individuals. 

It’s true that we all live within an environment, and that the health choices available to us are influenced by the environment. But that influence goes both ways—every choice that we make has some impact on the environment. The impact from one individual is small, to be sure, but when enough people start making a certain kind of choice, the environment adapts. 

An example is organic food—the more people choose to buy it, the more that industry grows, and the less is the use of artificial chemical pesticides on farmland. Many similar individual choices have a large effect. 

There’s actually a philosophical principle at play here. It’s the idea that we should make choices that we would like to see everyone else in a similar position make.

The point is not that you should make decisions regarding your health that do not promote your own well-being; of course you should, and helping you to do so is why eSavvyHealth exists. But the human body has evolved to live within a healthy ecosystem, and so it is only natural that, in the main, decisions and actions that are good for you will also be good for that ecosystem. If the populations of 50 other nations have a better idea about how to do that than those of us who live in the U.S., perhaps we should take another look at the recommendations of that report. 

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