Monday, May 15, 2006

Give Me Education or Give Me Death

Recently, my good friend, Abigail, and I were having an in-depth discussion about the relationship between education, economics, and health. These three are all intertwined and as I go on in this piece, I’ll give full details of how they’re all related. Abigail just graduated with her Master’s Degree in Health, Exercise Science, and Recreation Management from the University of Mississippi (Congrats Abz!!), so she knows more than me in the health part. But everything else comes from pure observation. So I’m gonna call this piece, “Give Me Education, or Give Me Death”.
First I’ll discuss the tie between health and economics. You ever notice how much more expensive it is to buy fresh fruit than it is to buy a candy bar? I would often wonder that question aloud to no one in particular. One day while I was in the grocery store, a wise woman overheard me and gave a fitting response. She said, “Because junk is cheap.” And then it all made sense. For whatever reason, even when you’re buying a generic brand, most (if not all) foods that are healthy for you are significantly more expensive than those foods that you really don’t need. So as a result, those of us who are living on a budget are more likely to buy Ramen noodles (WAY too much starch and cholesterol) and Spam (YUCK) in bulk that will last us for a month, for the same price as we would pay for lean cut meat and fresh fruits and vegetables that will last us a week at best. And the foods that should serve as periodic indulgences (such as candy, cookies, cakes, potato chips, etc) become part of our every day diet, which leads to long term health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, etc. So even if we WANTED to eat healthier, most of us can’t afford to. This is a problem.
Now is the tie between education and economics. I’m well aware of the counter argument that people spend huge amounts of money on other things that they really don’t need (such as expensive clothes) and if they were so concerned about their health, they’d splurge on healthier dieting. That’s true. But how many people have been properly educated on what a healthy diet is? For that matter, how many people are educated enough to have jobs that pay well enough for them to afford these overpriced healthy foods?
Mississippi and Alabama (Abigail’s and my states, respectively) are very near the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to education. They’re two of the worst public education systems in the country (check the statistics for yourself). Which ties right into…
The tie between education and health: Not so surprisingly, while Mississippi and Alabama are scraping the barrel bottom in education, we’re the cream of the crop when it comes to obesity. I’m a complete adversary of making generalizations and blanket statements, but the numbers don’t lie. For the past few years that this study has been done, Alabama and Mississippi are near the top. So what does one have to do with the other? I’m so glad you asked, because that question leads me to the tie between all three.
The poor education systems in these two Dixie states are a direct link to the high poverty levels. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that in today’s society, it is incredibly difficult to advance in any field without sufficient education. Little to no wages leaves the impoverished at a disadvantage as they’re not eating for long term health. They’re eating to survive from day to day. When you’re eating just so you won’t starve to death, it doesn’t matter what you’re eating. And in most cases, they have to eat the cheapest thing(s) they can find. So they get fried and processed foods. That leads directly to health problems of all sorts, with obesity being the primary one. And obesity leads to low self-esteem and all sorts of other health issues that I can’t even begin to get into because I don’t have all the details. But I WILL close with this…
It is imperative that we do a better job of educating ourselves and our children on the importance of proper dieting and exercise. Not only that, but we should also make better efforts to manage our income more sufficiently (i.e. spend frugally, open mutual funds, invest in real estate, etc.) to prevent falling victim to this plague of poverty that leads to all of the aforementioned problems. In any event, I beg you to just EDUCATE YOURSELF. And when you do, put it into action, because as old SOUTHern women like to say, “If you know better, you’re supposed to do better”. Give yourself education, or give yourself death.