Creating A Culture of Health: A Call to Baby Boomers
By Louis Bezich

How much worse does it have to get? Barely 3% of Americans lead a healthy lifestyle. Nearly 40% of the nation is classified as obese and the percentages inch even higher among those over 60! If this doesn’t cause you to pause and think, what’s even more concerning is that the number one factor impacting our health is our own behavior. Yes, when it comes to our health, we largely control our own destiny and fail miserably. In a country that spends more money on health care than all industrialized countries in the world, the general state of our health is, well, not very good.

In my book Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50, I present an unconventional, motivation-based approach to health for men over 50 as an alternative to our current system where we’re quick to jump into the latest diet or exercise trend without much consideration for the behavioral mindset needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I assert that without motivation, no diet, exercise program, technology or other strategy will produce sustained results and I describe how the healthy-living 50-year-olds I studied exhibit a strong cognitive association between their life’s priorities and their behaviors and frequently integrate their social and behavioral activities; they take walks with their wives, enter races with their children and grandchildren, and share healthy meals with friends. While I focus on men over 50 because of the visibility of their poor health practices in light of what would seemingly be a natural inspiration to live healthy, a motivation-based approach to health is equally adoptable for men and women of all ages.

By seizing upon a strategy that recognizes the huge impact of our behavior, I acknowledge that culture beats strategy and to be successful a behavioral-focused strategy requires a heavy dose of supporting cultural change. In the book I call upon the Baby Boomers, the generation that was all about cultural change, to muster-up one last effort, for their own good and the good of future generations.

My call is grounded in a growing body of evidence acknowledging the power of social influences on behavioral change. My vision is a collective effort among major institutional stakeholders and the people to define a societal “why” for healthy behavior, create a new American culture that makes a healthy lifestyle the new norm, and ingrain the new behaviors to prevent any regression; think recycling, seat belt usage or attitudes towards smoking. Here’s what I mean.

Every movement starts local so the movement needs to begin in every household. Using men over 50 as an example, the first step is to establish your motivational platform, define your personal “why” and embark on an active social-behavioral journey with the requisite guardrails of habits, routines and rituals like the ones I’ve referenced. These strategies need support by your own personal behavioral network; the wives, partners, children, grandchildren, friends and co-workers that love or care for you. The fascinating outcome in this approach is that it can help spur the ultimate goal of all humans, happiness. According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history, good social relationships keep us happier and healthier, and that social connections are really good for us. Imagine, a grass-roots movement that makes our county, and each of us healthier AND happier!

That’s great, but what about the major forces that shape our culture? What’s this institutional alignment that give me optimism that a cultural shift to a healthier lifestyle is possible? Simply put, we can’t afford it much longer.

Insurers, politicians and clinicians are all in agreement that the financial hemorrhaging has to stop. When viewed in the context of behavior as the greatest driver of our health, the answer becomes quite clear. Now skeptics will be quick to scream that changing behaviors is a lot easier said than done. We’ve seen first-hand that unhealthy behavior is made easy and what’s good for us takes effort. This is where the cultural change becomes to critical. Baby boomers are in a unique position to understand that past and provide insight into the future. We know what’s possible and how a groundswell of our collective voices among our families and the powerful institutions can make healthy behavior the norm. We’re old enough to remember the resistance when we were told to separate recyclables, wear a seat belt and stop smoking; all the behavioral norms today (with a major reduction in smoking).

Can we do the same with our health? By leveraging a societal “why” with the strength and conviction of the underlying social and emotional motivations I believe that the Baby Boomers have one more cultural change within us. Be part of the change.

Louis Bezich is the author of Crack the Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50. He serves as Senior Vice-President, Strategic Alliances with Cooper University Health Care and is an adjunct professor in the Graduate Department of Public Policy and Administration at the Camden Campus of Rutgers University. Bezich has published numerous articles in the field of public administration and health and is a contributing author to Corporate Lawbreaking and Interactive Compliance, edited by Jay A. Sigler and Joseph E. Murphy.


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