Not Enough Lifeguards

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I love a beach with a lifeguard every 10 yards. Every 100-yard stretch of ocean-front beach should have 10 lifeguards. It should be hard to see the surf because the lifeguards are in the way.
I don’t want to learn how to swim. I don’t want to stay out of the water if big sharks are cruising the beach looking for lunch. I don’t want to stay out of the undertow that can wash me out to sea and drown me.
Just gimme a lifeguard every 10 yards! I have a right!
By now, if you’re not convinced that I’m crazy, better stop reading. The rest of this might be harder to swallow.
I want lots of doctors, too. I want lots of hospitals, lots of urgent care offices, and lots of inexpensive health insurance. Actually, I want all of it for free, if I can get it. Or at least real cheap, OK?
Just gimme somebody to take care of me. I have a right!
After all, I have a right to eat all I want, smoke as much as I feel like smoking, and smoke whatever I want, and of course I have a right to drink anything that isn’t Draino. It’s a free country. I have my rights!
See the problem? Keeping yourself alive and healthy isn’t somebody else’s job. And keeping you healthy isn’t the same as rescuing you after you’ve made yourself sick. If you get yourself sick, don’t blame the lifeguards.
So, if your health takes a team effort, you are the captain of your team. If you like sports metaphors, you’re the quarterback, not the cheerleader.
Doctors and lifeguards are on hand when bad things happen that really are beyond your control, and that’s a good thing. But compared to what we can and should do to stay healthy, calling on the doctors and lifeguards should be the exception, not the rule.
This week the Jamestown Gazette’s cover story brings us all an invitation to help run the team. This week’s contributing writer, Shelly Wells, RN, the Public Health Planner for the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, reveals one simple fact that can change everything in our healthcare system.
Only 20 percent of a community’s health can be attributed to doctors, hospitals, and the like. The other 80 percent comes from individuals and communities concentrating on staying healthy.
Staying healthy is not all about seeing a doctor when you get sick. It’s about doing what you can to make sure you never have to see a doctor. If everybody did that, the size and cost of the healthcare system in Chautauqua County – in fact, in the whole United States – would shrink to the size it should be. We would not need a lifeguard stationed every 10 yards along our beaches. We would learn how to swim. That would make the lifeguards we really need more effective and less costly.
As quarterback of your own healthcare team, you know what is needed most. You know what the county can do to promote healthy neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and environments.
But just in case you haven’t thought about it before, please take the county-wide survey and take charge.
This week’s Jamestown Gazette also brings you young people who know how to take charge in a way we should all be proud of. The county’s – and the nation’s – future farmers will feed us. Nobody else will, and nobody else can. Fresh, nutritious food is at the heart of every possible plan for staying healthy.
Let’s all celebrate tomorrow’s farmers as the core of our healthcare system. They are among the most important keys to everyone’s health and wellness.

Be well, be healthy, and enjoy the read.
Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.