Unhealthy socio-economic status – Noordkop Central

The World Health Organization (WHO) is sounding the alarm. More than half of European adults are overweight. WHO talks about an epidemic. Yesterday, this card was discussed in Nieuwsuur, where the image of an open tap and a full bath was used. The open tap is a metaphor for the supply of unhealthy food and the full bath for all the people who have become obese due to unhealthy consumption behavior. It is becoming more and more common that TV attention is on (ill) health.

Antoinette Hertsenberg has made a number of programs under the title ‘Better’, where she follows four people from a vulnerable area in Deventer in their attempt to live healthier. Her cameraman shoots the main characters, including a relatively young, corpulent participant using an electric scooter. He obviously does not need that means of transport at all, but it is pure laziness. Banning that scooter from his life could already give him a lot of health benefits. On the way to the doctor, he turns on another. Shortly after, we see him sitting on a terrace lurking from a glass of beer. And of course the eternal cigarette between the fingers. He is one of those graduates who can hopefully be adjusted by Antoinette to start living a healthier life. Antoinette is easy to talk to. From a privileged position, she tells the candidates what not to do and what not to do. How they can take better care of themselves. Antoinette does not live in an exposed area and does not have to live on benefits or minimum wage. To emphasize the difference between the slim, healthy and rich presenter and the ‘ordinary’ people, some participants are subtitled in a stigmatizing way while being well understood.

Just telling someone how to live a healthy life will have little effect because many factors are part of a person’s (un) health. All factors should be beneficial to feel healthy. A so-called holistic approach to care and health can be found in the Dutch physician Machteld Huber, who developed the concept of ‘positive health’. According to her, positive health consists of six dimensions. Your physical and mental functions, your daily function, the degree to which you participate in society and the spiritual-existential dimension: to what extent do you experience the meaning of life? According to Huber, meaning is by far the most important dimension of a healthy life. In very difficult circumstances, like even life in a concentration camp, meaningful activities can get you through it. In addition, making sense would increase your resilience and adaptability. In fact, she says you have to calm down with what you have. What strikes me about her theory is that Huber skips the socioeconomic aspect of health a little too easily. Poverty, as in the vulnerable area of ​​Deventer, is a major cause of ill health. I would like to add socioeconomic status as the seventh dimension of health to her theory.

You often hear that you are what you eat. If you eat healthy food, you promote your health. Huber explored how we as humans handled food in the past. Since the beginning of humanity, we have almost always been hunters and gatherers. Relatively recently, about 9,000 years ago, we began to cultivate the land and became (small) farmers and farmers. We did it in a primitive way. Then came a time of urbanization and industrialization, where industrial workers crowded around the factories, consuming food of very low quality. But, says Huber, that is the case again today. The low quality food ends up in the lower socioeconomic classes. She sees this everywhere in the world, including in the Netherlands. The middle and upper class can choose their food at will and do not have to fear hunger.

There are fewer and fewer small farmers and people with their own kitchen garden. The landscape is replaced by the big city, where a dichotomy takes place: the high-paid who live in expensive houses – such as the presenter at ‘Beter’ – while the minimum wage earners and unemployment benefit recipients are ‘stored’ in vulnerable neighborhoods. Two separate worlds whose health characteristics of the population show great differences. People in vulnerable areas are healthier and die years earlier. Homeowners eat healthier and live longer with good health.

Excessive consumption of meat, fat, sugar and salt seems to be part of the current lifestyle, combined with smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. The unhealthy lifestyle often results in chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and lung cancer in old age. In different parts of the world, so-called ‘blue zones’, people who live relatively healthy lives to very old age. It has been shown that it is related to the consumption of organic products and a lifestyle where the relationship with mother nature comes to the fore.

Will Hertsenberg in her program be aware of the low benefits and wages for the residents of the vulnerable neighborhood and link this to the unhealthy lifestyle she has found there? Will it also point to fundamental inequalities in society as an important factor in this poor health? I suppose she will not mind it. In her vision, the four residents must change and not society …

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