Health and Wellness as Disaster Prep
Dan O’Connor, founding scholar at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Advanced Thinking for Homeland Security Program, is a specialist in national security and disaster response with decades of dealing with crises in the field. We got his thoughts on where the coronavirus fallout might lead us.
Read our full feature Q&A, Disaster Deconstructed.
My thesis work was that obesity was a national homeland security issue because of its observational and unintended consequences and the fact that it impacted two thirds of our entire population. … If we have 157 million to 200 million people, roughly two thirds of our country, with comorbidities of obesity, a BMI over 30, and high blood pressure, and 99% of the people who were negatively impacted by COVID-19 had those comorbidities, no one can say that our health, our wellness, our food system, and the way we prepare a nation holistically did not have a detrimental effect. … We have much better answers than we did even five years ago. But everyone has a degree of responsibility. The food pyramid, the federal government, our food manufacturers.
If you want the nation to be healthy and vibrant and to diminish some of these unintended consequences to novel sickness and novel interruption, you have to address some root causes, as opposed to the symptoms—address the problem and fix the problem.
When you take comorbidities and you superimpose them on people who are under an extended period of stress, their cognitive abilities are impacted, and their physical abilities are impacted.
There are people who are doing soft returns on investment and cost/benefit analysis in terms of preparation versus response. I inform them that what they’ve been told most of their lives in regards to food and health and wellness is wrong. And if you can recalibrate their expectations—what will be provided by the company—and if the company sees this as an investment in long-term care that will reduce its costs in terms of insurance and healthcare, then it becomes a suitable model to invest in.
So yes, providing certain kinds of food, providing time to exercise. Mindfulness is really making quite a push in the current markets in terms of being aware of your stressors and understanding that these situations are not permanent but that they have permanent effects if you choose not to interrupt them and change them. So it’s in the best interest of a company in a lot of perspectives to do prevention now as opposed to responding to it later.