Agriculture is the primary health industry by a long margin. The supply of water, with its associated hygiene and drainage is second in line. Until we really appreciate this fundamental perspective, we will remain beguiled by plastic pots of highly manufactured nutritional supplements that sit on the shelves of so-called ‘health shops’. These have only marginal uses. Supermarkets and other outlets for the sale of fresh food should be branded the temples of healthy living.
The fitness industry is high on the list too. Not just the intense and sweaty atmosphere of the local gym, but all other forms of exertive activity. Much of this is about the supply of equipment, whether wet-weather gear for walking or a drop-dead gorgeous dress for a night out dancing. The same goes for bikes, swimming pools, skis and gardening tools. Anything that gets people on their feet.
New digital gadgets now help people see the effect of all this fun. The measurement of movement and vital signs are increasingly available to us as consumers. Smartphones collate the statistics and provide feedback to motivate us to take that little bit extra exertion.
And then there are the many and varied forms of healing and wellness. Though usually bereft of robust evidence to assert their value, the practices of homeopathy, acupuncture, prayer and mindfulness seem to stimulate the mysteries of the mind/body interrelationship. We would do well to think in new categories about these activities rather than constantly vying for recognition alongside medicine. The level of sophistication in neuroscience is not yet sufficient to provide much insight into their action. So long as people accept this uncertainty with their hope of efficacy, these various well-established therapies can complement the basics of diet and exercise.
The articles in this section consider those commercial activities that channel people’s efforts to live well. They will sift the wheat from the chaff, and will encourage a ‘whole person’ concept into which these distinct physical or mental activities contribute.