The Battle for Health
Being sick is not only frustrating, but also expensive. Treating people exposed to frequent illnesses, leading unhealthy lifestyles and having bad habits costs state budgets substantial amounts of money. The concept of "health care," which was once limited to going to the doctor and taking a sick leave, has gone beyond that. Today, it is not only about treating illnesses, but also about prevention, sustainable well-being, and creating healthy communities. This seismic shift in the collective consciousness of citizens requires new approaches to public health.
That's why governments are coming up with special laws, taxes, government programs, and other amazing strategies to encourage citizens to live healthier lives.
Japan: Tax on Extra Centimeters at Waist
Japan is a country with an amazing mix of ascetic traditions and rapid technological development, but the global problem of obesity has not spared its citizens. The Japanese are addressing this worldwide disease in their own unique way. To combat this disturbing trend, in 2008 Japan introduced the so-called "Metabo tax" or waistline tax. However, it is not the owners of the "extra centimeters" who are taxed, but their employers.
The point is simple. If an employee's waistline exceeds the norm, the employer pays extra money to the budget. The government believes that this is the best way to encourage citizens to maintain a healthy weight, as well as "raise awareness of the health risks associated with obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle.
The waistline tax made Japan one of the first countries in the world to take such a bold step. Over the years, the "tax" has proven its effectiveness. Working Japanese began to take more care of their figure. And Japanese companies, trying to avoid unnecessary costs, are making efforts to initiate wellness programs, set up gyms, and introduce healthier menus for their employees. As a result, Japan has seen a steady decline in obesity rates.
The Netherlands: Cycling Initiatives
The Dutch are passionate about bicycles. Two-wheeled culture is part of the country's mentality. Naturally, the Bicycle Initiatives program has become the basis of the Dutch sustainable transport strategy. The program's goal is to encourage people to choose bicycles as their main mode of transportation. To do this, the country is creating safe and accessible cycling infrastructure and actively communicating the additional benefits of the Cycling Initiatives.
Thus, the program helps to reduce traffic congestion, reduce hazardous air emissions and, most importantly, engage everyone from schoolchildren to the elderly in an active lifestyle. After all, comfortable and safe cycling is a good prerequisite for choosing this mode of transportation.
The Netherlands has been consistently implementing cycling initiatives since the 1970s, investing heavily in building bicycle lanes, developing convenient bike-sharing schemes, and improving traffic regulations.
The results of this policy are striking: Dutch cities are consistently ranked among the most cyclist-friendly in the world. The development of such eco-friendly transportation has not only reduced the number of cars on the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also improved the overall health of citizens.
Ukraine: Mental Health Program - "How Are You?"
Historically, health programs have often focused on treating physical ailments, leaving mental health in the shadows. However, the realization that mental health is just as vital as physical health has prompted governments to take a more holistic approach.
The basic tool of the program is a round-the-clock hotline, where qualified specialists provide immediate support and counseling to people in crisis.
The initiative is designed to support people affected by the full-scale Russian invasion: to help them understand, live with and accept the psychological trauma caused by the unprecedented violence that Ukrainians have been at the epicenter of.
At the heart of the "How Are You?" concept are accessible, reliable and compassionate services, overcoming the stigma of mental health treatment and encouraging people to seek help when needed. The program is based on the belief that emotional health is just as important as physical health, especially during a time of war.
Great Britain: Sugar Tax
In April 2018, the United Kingdom took a decisive step to address the growing problem of sugar consumption, and thus obesity and other related health problems. The country introduced the so-called "sugar tax". An additional fee when buying sugary drinks was supposed to reduce their consumption, especially among children.
The sugar tax was adopted as part of the UK government's strategy to combat childhood obesity. Its effects have been tangible: many beverage manufacturers have changed the formulation of their products to reduce sugar content. This has not only contributed to an increase in the overall level of public health in the country, but also brought additional revenues to the budget.
The proceeds were used to invest in school sports clubs and healthy eating initiatives. As a result, sugar consumption among children has significantly decreased.
USA: The Tips from Former Smokers
Launched in 2012 in the United States of America, the "Tips from Ex-Smokers" campaign is an example of an effective initiative aimed at combating tobacco use. The idea of the program was to tell about the dangers of smoking using real stories of former smokers who had been seriously affected by their bad habit. The personal example proved to be a successful technique.
The "Tips from Ex-Smokers" campaign is aimed at all Americans, especially those who smoke or are at risk of starting to smoke. By reaching a wide audience, the initiative aims to change public attitudes toward tobacco use and ultimately save lives.
The campaign was launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ten years ago, and according to the initiators, "has changed the public perception of smoking." Since the launch of the campaign, smoking rates in the United States have been steadily declining. The number of mature people seeking to quit the habit is also growing.
Amidst the complexity of today's world, full of information noise and hyperconsumption incentives, health improvement initiatives are more relevant than ever. At the same time, we should not forget that government programs aimed at improving the health of the population are not just politics, but a reflection of the public demand to be healthier and happier.