In the eyes of a frontline NHS GP and Founder of Smart About Health, Dr Laura David
Dr David is the founder of Smart About Health – Proactive, clinician-led, holistic health and wellbeing in the workplace. Smart About Health helps organisations embed high quality, engaging health and wellbeing programmes across all levels at organisations. She is also a practicing NHS GP and a mother of two young girls.
Health. It is a fundamental component of a prosperous and sustainable society and must be seen as a priority, even more so now. Employers have a key responsibility in ensuring their most valuable assets – their people – are able to take care and control of their health and wellbeing.
COVID-19 has brought to light the realities of the fragility of our health. We must use this opportunity wisely. We need to see how we can better our health and wellbeing, our families health and wellbeing, and that of our teams around us. Although COVID-19 has brought so much negativity, we should also strive to take some of it’s positive effects by the reigns. We now have an opportunity to embed a system in the workplace that allows adequate understanding, conversation, motivation and de-stigmatisation of the areas of health and wellbeing that are important to us across our diverse organisations.
As a General Practitioner, I have seen so much variation in my NHS practice. Our concern that we would see late presentations of conditions and deterioration in mental and physical health has been realised. There are many who have let their chronic conditions deteriorate, with Diabetic sugar levels steeply rising and new diagnoses of Diabetes frequently discovered. With blood pressure readings out of control, depression deepening and anxiety worsening too. I have also seen those who have had a wakeup call. They have made anywhere from radical changes to diet, exercise and health (such as stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake and creating healthy habits for self-care), to making small steps to a more fulfilled and healthy life – taking a morning walk every day, chatting to a neighbour, engaging with a new hobby or skill, volunteering to help someone in need.
Whilst we endeavour to empower people to take ownership and control of their health, this isn’t easy. Motivation, realisation and adaptation are all required for us to make changes to our own health for the better.
I truly believe we have a clear opportunity here, to become ‘fighting fit’, whether that is just in case we catch COVID, so we feel healthier, have more energy, better concentration, more productivity, better relationships, it is all worth it.
We also have a fantastic opportunity to make health a central part of our conversation at work and in our life at home (and, of course, the line between the two has been blurred more than ever). We should talk about it with our family, with our work colleagues, with our friends, motivate each other, and, importantly, not be afraid. If we have a challenge with our health (which we all do or will), don’t be shy, we are only human after all, so share what is going on. This is easier said than done, with the taboo and stigma attached to many health issues. But if we are going to make a change to how we view health issues, we have to, at a ground level, be able to share, be supported, accept support, and know we are not alone.
We are the only ones who can master our own destiny, so let’s use this opportunity to take some steps to better our health, because if not now, when?
So what changes could we think about?
There are some core modifications we can make to our lives to improve our health outcomes; things that are within our own control. These include:
- Stopping smoking: reduce risk of cancers, not just lung cancer, reduce risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attacks and strokes. Reduce risk of chronic lung disease, improve exercise tolerance and oral hygiene, improve skin health, reduce risk of fires in the home, reduce risk of cot death for babies.
- Reducing alcohol intake: Improved nutrition and mental health, improved sleep, reduction in cancer and cirrhosis risk, reduced cardiovascular risk and reduced risk of cognitive problems.
- Reducing obesity: our opportunity to reduce cardiovascular disease, diabetes risk, joint and back pain, osteoarthritis and cancer risk, improved fertility success
- Reducing inactivity and sedentary lifestyle: Improve cardiovascular function and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, improve joint health and improve energy levels and mental wellbeing. If exercise was a drug, we would all be on it!
- Improving intake of nutritious and varied food: improved mental and physical wellbeing, improved bone and metabolic health, reduce risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers.
We need to take ownership for our health and the health of those close to us. We can put ourselves in the best possible position by ensuring our priorities are right. In the workplace we must be given the best opportunities to prioritise health and wellbeing and destigmatise areas of health that we find hard to talk about. And we will reap the benefits of a healthy population of employees, after all, wellbeing = Welldoing.
What will it take for us to make small changes in the areas above, at home, at work and for our future? How will companies ensure we centralise and prioritise health and wellbeing and ensure it is core to the strategies of maintaining a well, productive and happy organisation?
You can meet Laura and the Smart About Health team at The Wellbeing @ Work Summit on 5 November – details here. Alternatively, you can contact Smart About Health now to see how, through their team of highly experienced clinicians, they can proactively embed health and wellbeing at your organisation.