Lake County offers the public advice on how to improve their health — and finances.

Eating the right foods can make you healthier -- but does living longer mean you need more money in your golden years? (Photo by Michael Freeman).

TAVARES – Most people assume that if you’re confronting a long term illness, you’re likely to also have money problems as you struggle to pay for your medical care and medications.
That’s true, said Julie England.
“Let’s say you have a chronic illness and don’t take care of your health and don’t eat correctly,” she said. “It could shorten your life, but also increase your health care costs, and that will affect your finances as well.”
But that doesn’t mean that people who do all the right things – exercising, eating sensibly, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol – don’t also face long-term financial challenges, she noted.
“If you are taking better care of yourself and living longer, you’ll also need more money because you’ll be living longer,” she said.
England, a family and consumer sciences agent with the UF/IFAS Lake County Extension Office in Lake County, has been hosting a series of workshops on the link between health care and finances. Last fall, in partnership with the Lake County Community Health Worker Program, the Extension Office offered the public a six-part workshop series entitled, “Healthy Living: Chronic Disease Self-Management,” designed to teach people living with a chronic health condition the skills they need to thrive and survive every day.
Now the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, in partnership with the Hillsborough, Okaloosa, Duval and Lake County Extension Offices, is offering a free webinar entitled, “Have a Healthy & Wealthy 2012.” It will be offered on Thursday, Jan. 26 from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
The live online learning class will explain how finances and health have a lot in common, and highlight strategies and action steps that can be taken to put people on a path to improved physical and financial fitness.
Topics expected to be covered during the webinar will include improved money management, debt reduction, healthier eating and stress reduction.
England said people don’t often recognize the link between how they treat their health, and how it impacts their finances.
“Some of the things that are unhealthy for us may cost more money, too, like cigarettes, alcohol, or if you eat out a lot,” she said. “That affects your finances, and depending on what your choices are, that can affect your health as well. People often think of them as separate, but they can be quite interrelated. How you work with one can affect the other.”
What’s important to understand, she said, is that healthy living and sound financial health are not easy to accomplish for anyone who is now coping with medical problems or has made a mess of their finances. There are no fast and easy solutions, she said, only steps they can take to start on the road to a healthier way of living, and a healthier financial outlook.
“We want to encourage them to make small steps toward reaching their health,” she said.
And don’t expect quick fixes.
“You’re not going to save money for retirement overnight – or lose 50 pounds overnight, either,” she said. “You’ve got to start with a small step — like increasing your intake of fruits and veggies, rather than buying a bag of chips, or saving one dollar a day. Or think about taking a small amount out of your paycheck every week. Everybody wants a quick fix, but there are no quick fixes.”
But there are plenty of small steps people can take that have a positive long term impact, she added.
“A step down, health-wise, would be eating smaller portions, not going out to eat so much, things like that,” she said. “A step down on the financial side would be to ask yourself, do you really need that humongous big screen TV — or maybe you don’t really need to buy it. Everybody can do something that is going to be improving their health and wealth. And you’re more likely to actually follow through on the small steps. If you set goals too big, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
The Lake County Extension provides research-based information and educational program cooperatively with the Lake County Board of Commissioners and the University of Florida for all aspects of horticulture, agriculture, food safety, the home environment, financial management and 4-H youth programs.
The Extension’s mission is to make knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources accessible to people to sustain and enhance the quality of human life.
Kelly LaFollette, Lake County’s information outreach director, said the office would be providing ongoing workshops in 2012 focusing on health care management issues.
“The Lake County Extension has as one of their missions to educate the public on health and wellness issues,” she said. “This is an ongoing effort on their part to teach the public about these issues.”
To register for the webinar, visit http://bit.ly/vbh3oU. For more information about the class, call England at 352-343-4101, Ext. 2721, or email julieeng@ufl.edu.
“They pre-register for it by clicking on the link,” she said. “They just need to have speakers or headphones and they’re brought into the webinar, which lasts an hour.”
This will be the first, she said, in a series focusing on financial health and well being.
“We actually have an ongoing series on webinars,” England said. “We started doing them all last year related to financial learning. Over the past year, I’ve been working with the financial specialists out of Gainesville at the University of Florida at the Family Youth and Sciences Department, and with the other Extension agencies. Last year, we did at least a dozen webinars on things like credit and debt and how to save $500 a month, and this year we’ve got another series planned. The first is ‘Healthy & Wealthy in 2012.’ ”
The future webinars will cover topics such as shopping for loans, about mutual funds, and rebuilding credit.

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