Incentives for Helpful Lifestyles?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

Guest Blogger: Patricia Donovan

Given the desperate conditions in the southeastern part of the country, it is trite to grouse about rising gas prices. Paying $3 to $6 per gallon is painful, but a mere pinch compared to the despair and devastation engulfing our southern neighbors. However, we all feel powerless in the wake of conditions beyond our control. We are chastened as we watch the fallout from Hurricane Katrina, situated as we are less than two miles from the Atlantic Ocean and perhaps a nor’easter away from a similar catastrophe.

Most of us will be moved to contribute financially and maybe even personally to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. But perhaps there’s a little something more the average person can do in response to this disaster to send a message. Maybe we can leave the gas guzzler (which with current gas prices pretty much includes all makes and models) in the driveway, open our garages and dust off our bikes. Maybe we can turn off the computers and take our children for a walk downtown, to the park or just down the street. Maybe we can skip our daily latte or Friday night pizza and movie for the next month or two and throw the resulting savings in a jar to send to the relief effort.

A by-product of this effort might be just what the doctor ordered—some healthy lifestyle changes. With childhood obesity increasing at alarming rates, it’s the right time for everyone to up their daily exercise quota. Substituting a healthy home-cooked meal for that pizza can’t hurt, either. Perhaps healthcare organizations already offering incentives for healthy lifestyles can up the ante for those motivated to change right now—for example, by making a contribution to the hurricane relief effort in the name of each member who pledges to stop smoking and start walking.

And while we’re modifying our behaviors, we should take a moment to talk with the people in our lives—our children especially—about caring for their neighbors and the importance of knowing right from wrong, even in the most dire circumstances. We never know when disaster—natural or otherwise—is going to strike. Because after the loss of lives, the most devasting effect of Hurricane Katrina is the failure of the human spirit.

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