Lucas Wakefield, Published September 14 2012
Letter: North Dakota can do better for the health of its residentsNorth Dakota is abound with opportunities. This state boasts a strong economy, respected higher learning institutions, and a great deal of compassion. One area that North Dakota falls sub-par is the area of health.
As a health care management and policy major at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., I have become increasingly aware of the health disparities across the United States. We are as North Dakotans, on average, less healthy than the rest of the nation. According to countyhealthrankings.org, North Dakota is worse than the rest of the nation in terms of smoking, obesity, physical activity, excessive drinking, motor-vehicle-related deaths, and even sexually transmitted diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, North Dakota is among the very worst states in the United States for binge drinking, mainly among college students. This is clearly unacceptable, and we can do better.
In my hometown of Devils Lake, there are as many fast food restaurants as traditional sit-down establishments. The definition of “recreational activity” that I grew up with involved many more ATVs, snowmobiles and Jet Skis than it did walking, biking or other forms of exercise.
The solutions to our health problems are simple: fewer trips to McDonalds, more time spent exercising, more time outdoors. Lifestyle changes are not often easy, but they are important – simple decisions each day can lead to long-lasting benefits.
Did you know that if you quit smoking, no matter what age, your lung function will begin to improve by the end of that first week? Did you know that drinking water rather than soda will cause you to lose several pounds of excess water weight that builds up due to the high levels of sodium that all soft drinks contain?
We can do better, North Dakota. We can be the healthiest state in the nation. All it takes is a little motivation and dedication, two traits I have never found lacking in this state. Seize the day.
Wakefield, Devils Lake, N.D., is a student at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.