May 14, 2014

Love it or loathe it, depending on your personal situation, Tuesday night’s Federal Budget has implications for all of us. We’re not getting into any political commentary, but there were some announcements that could well have an impact on health care.

  • Hospital funding agreements will be wound back from 2017.
  • The Medicare rebate for optometry will be reduced, and a multi-million-dollar dental care program will be deferred.
  • A national partnership agreement on preventive health will be axed.
  • Patients will pay a $7 co-payment to visit the GP, and will pay more for medication through changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

If you’re in peak health, none of this will mean much to you. If you have health concerns or if you’re aging, now is the time to take action to reduce your reliance on doctors and hospitals.

One of the most straight-forward ways to improve your long-term health is to ensure your diet is healthy. Eating lots of fresh foods and eliminating processed junk foods is a good starting point, but sometimes the foods we think are healthy are, in fact, just as bad as those we know are junk.

Just because a product says or implies that it’s healthy, don’t think it’s OK. Statements on packaging are made by marketing and advertising people, not by dietitians, and their purpose is to sell product, not take care of your health.

One or more healthy ingredients in a product doesn’t mean the food is healthy. Read the nutrition panel and the ingredients, and check for sugar content. Comparing this to other brands and types of a similar product can help you make better choices.

If you’re in the middle aisles at the supermarket and see a packaged food that’s cheap, this usually implies poor nutritional quality. Processed foods are filled with ingredients which bulk the food but have little nutritional value. Unfortunately, this lower nutrition means you eat more (your body knows that it still needs more nutrients) and get hungry more quickly. In the long run, you’ll be buying and eating more of these cheap products than you would fresh food, and eventually suffering the health (and related medical) consequences of poor nutrition. If your budget is tight, go for seasonal fruit and vegetables and cheaper cuts of meat as they’re inexpensive and perfect for feeding the family.

A second simple way to reduce health concerns is to incorporate daily exercise into your schedule. This does not have to take a long time each day, but it’s important to be active. Sitting for long periods – at work and at home in front of the TV – need to be offset by short bursts of activity throughout the day.

A standing desk, taking a two minute break every hour to walk, take the stairs, check the mail – whatever is appropriate for your workplace – and taking a 15 – 20 minute walk during your lunch break can do wonders for your health.

For many people, making some simple lifestyle changes can help avoid the medical costs that have the potential to really impact the family budget. Looking after your diet and getting regular exercise might see you avoiding the GP and the hospital, and in the process having the health and vitality to enjoy your life.