Health Care Reform and Individual Responsibility

The tragedy in Arizona shakes and reverberates through our nation, a clear wake-up call to us to figure out how to keep each other well so that health care does not continue to be a major controversial issue in our country. 

There is something wrong with the equation that the increase in our aging population means that health care businesses are the job market of the future. The new adage seems to be “To be old is to be sick.” Yet, it has been clearly stated through the ages, from the Tao Te Ching through to Maggie Kuhn’s claim, “We all have to get old, but we do not have to get sick.”  

Today, television airs popular health specials about diets leading to robust health. One thing they do have in common is ‘moderation.’ True, it is hard to observe moderation when eating out, as many of us do. Today’s sandwiches are about twice the size of those served 20 years ago, and today’s dinner plate is not only 1” larger in diameter, it is also piled higher with fries or a humungous potato, along with twice as much meat or fish, and smaller servings of green and yellow vegetables than we were served 20 years ago. 

We are clearly not sick of being sick yet. Otherwise we would be reaching for a goal that would bring much faster general health and an automatic reduction in health care demands, not one that clearly keeps our health spiraling down. 

How much health could be bought with what we now spend on health care? In the United States, we represent so many different ethnic backgrounds that the idea of one particular diet to suit all needs makes no sense. We could be enjoying a variety of health promoting foods rather than leaning so heavily on double servings of everything from popcorn to fries and fried foods in general. We could put sodas back into the occasional drink category instead of using them regularly with their appetite stimulating, bone deteriorating effects.

 Our supermarkets and health food stores have a fantastic array of bright fruits and vegetables as well as bulk stores of whole grains and beans that form the base of every diet imaginable. Unless we are doing heavy physical labor, 4 ounces of meat or fish will give us the amounts of nutrients we need without overtaxing our systems with health problems and financial stress.

 If we are truly interested in Health Care Reform, we need to take responsibility right in our own homes to make it happen. We need to keep each other well by collaborating on what we learn, not just about what our representatives in Washington are doing, but by taking a candid look at what each of us is doing to bring about good health.

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