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Have you lost your appetite for elephant?

Have you ever found yourself in a predicament with a large elephant in the room that is being ignored by everyone?

You know that the elephant isn’t going anywhere until you or someone else acts.

Room elephants vary in size and complexity, but just like the circus elephant my veterinarian Dad was called to rescue after having become stuck in a lift (true story!) you know it’s going to take far more than a large tub of Vaseline and food treats to get the pachyderm to shift.

In this month’s Masterclass, we looked at decision making, why some decisions are far harder to make than others, as well as what you can do to become better in your own decision making and avoid the pain of indecision and procrastination.

The biggest, hairiest, and most resistant elephant currently requiring our attention is our health system.

It’s beyond sick.

It’s become increasingly apparent that the existing system, whether you are talking about workplace health, mental health, aged care, Indigenous, Primary or Hospital care is teetering on the verge of collapse.

This is nothing new. This elephant has grown old while we were watching.

 

When the problem appears too big.

The health system is massive, highly complex, complicated and a black hole for consuming huge quantities of well-intentioned funds that placate the elephant but fail to move it one centimetre.

Because it’s too big it’s natural to leave it in the too hard elephant basket, hoping that a miracle will occur, and things will sort themselves out.

Unfortunately, this approach will only prolong the painful demise.

 

It’s time to increase our appetite for elephant.

“How do you eat an elephant?”

Queue giggles.

“One bite at a time.”

We already have many of the solutions, it’s time now to find the courage to act.

 

A radical overhaul may not be necessary.

Sometimes the answer to our challenge can be hidden in plain sight, especially if a binary approach has been adopted. Rather than thinking everything needs to change, a softly, softly approach starts by asking,

  • What needs to be ditched immediately? (Such as ongoing reliance on health care personnel overworking and inadequate resources and support)
  • What’s working well and can be improved further? (Australia is blessed with amazing, dedicated health workers, technologies, and medical innovations)
  • Where is the best place to start – choose one. (OK, I agree, this can be a trickier question to answer. It matters less about making it the RIGHT choice, just make a start somewhere.)

Identify the smallest tweak, innovation, change needed to start the process that is inexpensive and effective.

This is where asking those on the front line where they see the greatest need and what simple item could make their work and outcomes so much better.

Loneliness is a massive issue affecting millions of Australians and others around the world.

Young and old alike are feeling more disconnected than ever before.
This is very detrimental to your physical and mental health.

In Zimbabwe, they introduced friendship benches. A bench where anyone could sit and have a conversation with another person. Using community-trained grandmothers, the program was very successful in reducing some of the mental health challenges being faced in the local population.

A bench.
A chat.
It’s amazing what facilitating connection can do.

In the UK and elsewhere, GPs are writing more social and green prescriptions.

Aged care facilities (now that Covid is reducing) are inviting school-age children to visit and interact with the older people. (I highly recommend watching the ABC series Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Old’s and its sequel Old People’s Home for Teenagers it’s inspiring!)

 

It requires a shift in focus.

For too long, the primary focus has been on diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease with precious little attention given to prevention.

But with an ageing population and a rapid increase in the medical burden of more middle-aged people with multiple chronic health issues, there is simply insufficient resources in terms of medical personnel or beds to handle this.

Just as we know it’s better to prevent bush fires by regular back burning and looking after the natural environment, seeking to lower the prevalence of poor health, and asking, “what’s keeping you well?” is a no-brainer.

This is where lifestyle medicine offers a great opportunity to empower individuals to take ownership of their own health and to encourage changes in lifestyle behaviour to stay well.
This is not just for the “worried well.” Lifestyle medicine works for everyone in every socio-economic population.

Research has shown it’s possible to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. Doctors and other health practitioners are already engaged in reversing Type 2 diabetes, a condition previously thought to be irreversible.

It’s estimated that 80% of all chronic medical disease is preventable.

Prevention is no longer an option, it’s a vital component to re-establishing a healthy, health system.

It’s time to encourage the government to join in and allocate a bit more than the current 2% of the health budget it currently puts towards prevention.

 

Enjoying good health is everyone’s responsibility.

If you’re a parent, what you do want the most of your children?

If you’re a partner, what do you care about the most for your other half?

If you’re an employee, how do you look after your own health and wellbeing, and look out for your colleagues?

If you’re a boss, what strategies have you got in place to keep yourself and all your employees fit and well so they can bring their best selves to everything they do?

 

Better health and wellbeing is something everyone has a right to.

Let’s get this elephant out of the room by,

• Taking the decision to act.
• Committing to the process.
• Celebrating all wins great and small.
• And staying curious to “what’s possible”.

What action will you be taking towards making our health system healthy again?

 

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase.

If psychological safety, mental wellbeing and burnout prevention is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.

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