Wednesday, October 6, 2010

DePaul Aims for Healthy Society

A healthy economy leads to a healthy society. Or so has been the traditional school of thought in the sustainable development community. Recently, however, there has been a shift in thinking. DePaul faculty member Michael Diamond, M.A. has suggested the phrase be reversed—a healthy society would in turn lead to a healthy economy. At first glance, the link between a population’s health and wellness and sustainability may not be immediately visible. According to Diamond, illness can impact an economy in many ways. When a person becomes ill and has to miss time from work or school, on average, another person is removed from the workforce or from their studies to care for the sick person. Resources and money that could be spent in the pursuit of other societal goals must then be used to care for the sick. With the potential drain both on capital and the labor force, it is in the best interest of any society to have as healthy of a population as possible.

Ultimately the choice to live and eat in a healthy manner remains with the individual. Institutions do have the ability, however, to provide incentives and push those affiliated down the path to wellness. DePaul has made great progress to encourage living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle by making small changes. One such program is the Green Steps walking program that was put in place in the Spring 2010. This program encouraged daily exercise and the use of alternate methods of transportation by connecting members of the DePaul community. Participants engaged in healthy competition and were held accountable by others to walk as much as possible during the 10-week program. Not only did the Green Steps walking program reward daily exercise, it helped to reduce the carbon footprint of those involved. The addition of bicycle storage spaces in the Clifton parking garage is another way DePaul is encouraging exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise is only half the equation when concerning a healthy lifestyle; a nutritious, balanced diet is also necessary. DePaul is helping to provide robust snacks in campus vending machines by labeling ‘balanced choice’ healthy snack options with a green symbol. By providing members of the DePaul community with nutritious options during breaks, the goal of a healthy diet is easier to attain.

It can be said that an investment in a healthy lifestyle is also an investment in sustainable development. Walking or riding a bike not only provides the individual with necessary exercise, it provides an alternative method of ‘green’ transportation, thus reducing the greenhouse gases that would have otherwise been emitted. Competitions such as the Green Step walking program are appearing across the country. When exercise is combined with a properly balanced diet the foundation is laid for a fit society. The goals of healthy living and sustainable development do not preclude each other. It is refreshing to see DePaul recognize this and implement steps to make this a reality.

Posted by: Nicholas Stratton

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