In Australia, over 70% of deaths come as a result of chronic diseases. What makes this statistic even more concerning is the fact that the majority of these diseases – diabetes, cardiovascular disease and others – are preventable.
The majority of chronic diseases are caused by, or made worse by, poor lifestyle behaviours such as a lack of exercise, poor diet and tobacco or alcohol use. However, changing your lifestyle behaviours is often a challenging issue to address both externally and internally. As a result, we see that over 11 million Australians suffer from at least one chronic disease.
However, luckily these diseases are preventable and manageable and one of the most influential treatments and preventatives is a balanced diet. Unfortunately, the majority of Australians are not eating enough fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. One of the major problems that people face in consuming enough fruit and vegetables is access. Some people in more remote locations do not have close access to fresh fruit and vegetables and those who do often cannot afford it and are forced to resort to the nutrient-deficient, processed foods.
Physicians of patients with chronic diseases can help by prescribing healthy eating such as a specific amount of fruit and vegetables to be eaten every day. Conducting programs specifically designed for people with chronic diseases is one way to increase their intake of healthy foods and provide them with a goal. Being able to measure the amount of fruit and vegetables consumed by these people and then being tested to show the results on a regular basis provides those with chronic diseases with motivation to continue and better their health. This in turn leads to a more educated individual who is able to pass the information on to family members and their children that hopefully builds a healthier future.
In addition to informing and educating people on the benefits of a healthy diet, those who are unable to afford or have regular access to fresh produce need to be accounted for. Programs aimed at providing free or discounted fruit and vegetables to less-privileged families and individuals need to be invested in so that we can create a future with a healthier population.
These people deserve fresh fruit and vegetables just as much as anyone else and the only real reason they are so expensive relative to processed foods is because of a rise in production technologies. Fresh fruit and vegetables needs to become more affordable for those who are unable to afford it at its current prices.
In working to educate and improve access to fresh produce for families, we are creating a healthier future for the population. Additionally, the ineffective management of chronic diseases costs more than $320 million dollars each year. By reducing the percentage of the population with chronic disease and through better management we are able to direct this money elsewhere to medical development. The overall impact of an improvement in death rates and the management of chronic diseases will be significant beyond the improved wellbeing of Australians.