Smoke and ale: Athletic training student reflects on Irish and American attitudes toward “healthy” lifestyles

By: Casey Seitz

During Spring Break 2019 I travelled thousands of miles from home to the Republic of Ireland, where, according to my Fitbit and weary feet, I trod 74.5 miles – that’s 152,270 steps! – in a matter of only seven days.

My reason for crossing the Atlantic was to take part in an educational Spring Break trip –ARTG4973: Global Practices in Healthcare Delivery – organized by The University of Tulsa’s athletic training graduate program and TU’s Center for Global Education. The course was taught by Greg Gardner, and the faculty members who led us were Samantha Beams, Rachel Hildebrand and Ron Walker.

Athletic training master's student Casey Seitz

A jam-packed week

Our jam-packed week began with getting to know Dublin on Saturday and Sunday. This included learning about the historic amateur games of Gaelic football and hurling (that’s me in the pic wielding a hurling stick).

On Monday, we did a cliff hike in Howth and enjoyed the beyond-amazing views. In the middle of the week, we balanced historical tours with walking around and just exploring on our own. On Friday, we toured Dublin City University and learned a lot about that institution’s Athletic Therapy and Training BSc program.

Lifestyle and health

One of the things that struck me especially forcefully during my time in Ireland was the unexpected – and widespread – combination of active lives with unhealthy lifestyles. By the latter, I’m referring mostly to drinking and smoking. The negative attitudes toward cigarettes in the States is certainly not present in Ireland.

Howth Cliff Path, Ireland

I come from a family where all of my parents and grandparents smoked, but that was not able to prepare me for the prevalence of cigarettes in Dublin and in pubs. There was not a portion of town where you could escape the smell. This was the case even out front of a local hospital: as part of an assignment, our group walked around St. James’s Hospital, and we were surprised to see several long-term care patients in wheelchairs smoking mere feet from the front door.

Another amazing thing we saw was in a pub on our final night. Next to our table were four older Irish locals. One of them told me that they were now all in their 70s, still in great health and had been friends for over 50 years. He said they met least once a week to enjoy a few pints of Guinness with each other and talk about anything and everything.

There is a stigma surrounding certain lifestyle choices in the U.S. that simply doesn’t exist in Ireland (or, at least, not to the same extent). And, despite some glaring negatives associated with smoking and alcohol consumption, the Irish live healthier lives than the average American (according to the World Health Organization, male/female mortality rates in the U.S. are 76 and 81, while in Ireland they are 80 and 83). We often are quick to judge each other’s decisions, but we do not think about the health impacts of our own diets and lack of physical activity.

Flyer for Ireland Global Education course

Study abroad, open your mind

Being able to visit foreign countries truly does open your mind. It took me six years of undergraduate and graduate study to finally make it aboard, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity.

 

About the author

Casey Seitz is nearing completion of his first year of study in TU’s athletic training graduate program. Prior to enrolling at TU, Seitz completed a bachelor’s in health and exercise science at the University of Oklahoma. Seitz has his eyes set on a career helping many kinds of patients — in particular, collegiate baseball players.