Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

No Matter the Health Care Solution, Personal Responsibility Is Part of the Mix

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Originally published on on Mon, 06/22/2009 – 1:10pm

The major health care battle is being fought with phrases such as “single payer,” “public option,” and “let’s protect private insurers.” But there is another health care battle that doesn’t directly involve the government or private health insurers.

If we had a trillion dollars every time President Obama has mentioned personal responsibility in a speech, we could buy the much needed infrastructure changes in this country. The president has spoken considerably about reducing behaviors that have led to obesity.

In one of many examples, in his June 15 speech to the American Medical Association, President Obama outlined our obligations as citizens for what we can do.

“It means quitting smoking… It means going for a run or hitting the gym and raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside… It also means cutting down on all the junk food that’s fueling an epidemic of obesity.”

Regardless of what health care plan we adopt as a country, or whether we (sadly) keep the status quo, we can also reduce health care costs in a way that doesn’t involve the government.

The American way is to reward ourselves, whether it’s a holiday or the end of the work week or even work day, and often that comes in the form of food. And we don’t seem to care what we put in our mouths.

We have been told for some time that children born in 2000 have a 1 in 3 will contract Type 2 diabetes, 1 in 2 if they are a minority. And since some as young as 9 are getting the disease, we may be hitting just the beginning of a new very strong wave.

There are two times of year when people start thinking about the way they eat and exercise: around New Year’s Day and when summer really kicks in. The New Year’s scenarios average about two weeks, the summer versions probably a bit longer. And since summer has now officially started, perhaps we can start thinking in terms of a year-round solution.

As this reporter learned from watching “Food Inc.” over the weekend, the food situation as Americans are stacked up against us. Government and corporate forces combine to give us a bad deal. Reduced food inspections by the FDA (down to 9,164 inspections by the FDA in 2006, according to the makers of Food Inc.), lobbyists pressure to include high-fructose corn syrup, and the way we grow our chickens and cows are just some of the roadblocks in our way.

Unlike cigarettes or even drugs, we need to eat food every day. And so we have to work harder as citizens to seek out quality within our food supply. Ironically, we might have more in common with our caveman brothers and sisters in that hunting and gathering for food is once again a complex exercise.

Of course, food is only one vital cog in the machine. No matter how cool the video games get, or IM (instant messaging), reality TV, or overall computer face time, we aren’t getting enough exercise.

Government certainly has a role to play in improving our health care: the new legislation that allows (finally) the FDA to regulate cigarettes. The number of food inspections needs to dramatically increase. But for all of what the government needs to do, President Obama understands that we need to do our part as well.

One area where we might get government, Republicans, Democrats, private health insurers, doctors, and progressives to all agree on is yearly checkups. The sooner problems are caught, the better we feel as a people — more productive, too — and we save money in the process. Right now, the health care system is not set up to take advantage of that solution.

Getting government to step up is vital to improving our overall health. But we can’t be ignorant of two things: government will never move fast enough, and we have to take on some of the responsibility ourselves.


Written by democracysoup

June 22, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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