I'm no expert, but it's painfully clear there's a glaring omission in the current health care debate when we talk about costs.
I've heard little about trying to make people healthier as a way to bring down what will certainly be--and already is--an expensive undertaking. One reason health care costs so much is that it's pricey to keep treating people with chronic diseases for decades after they've been diagnosed. Many chronic diseases, we now know, are diet-related. Coronary heart disease, diabetes and obesity top the list, not to mention the myriad obesity-related issues. Cancer and stroke are also linked to diet. Today, CNN reported there is $147 billion on overall obesity-related spending a year.
It's hideously ironic that the very food that is supposed to nourish us is killing us. But it's often a slow, prolonged and expensive death. And it's wholly unfair to place the cost burden of these diseases on those who got lucky in the birth lottery with new taxes. Instead, we need to revolutionize the way we eat and the way we think about food.
Organic, local fruit and vegetables and sustainably-raised meat need to take the place of deadly processed food products. And there's more: the very way we live needs to change. We don't exercise and we breathe in polluted air and we smoke a lot of cigarettes. We drive everywhere instead of walking or biking because it's faster, easier or, in many cases, the only feasible and safe way to get anywhere.
Completely re-engineering our cities is certainly not going to happen quickly and cheaply, but we can do something about this food issue immediately. We can educate people about what they eat and work to make organic, local produce less expensive and more accessible for those who buy cheaper, less healthful food because it's all they can afford. The large-scale effects of eating better might take time to realize, but it'd be a positive investment in our health care future. And it'd probably be cheaper than going on the way we are, paying for such a high percentage of our population to continue living with preventable diseases.
Consider yourself one of the educated. If you can afford real food, there are no more excuses.