By Marie Dufour, RD - In 25 words, here is my definition: “Healthcare is an individual responsibility that befalls on us who, by the grace of God or the fate of genetics, were born without major illness.”
The healthcare reform we’ve seen over the last 20 years has only resulted in paying primary care physicians less to have them tell us that we could avoid 80% of our illnesses by eating right and being physically active. And we, complaining of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, heart pressure, acid reflux, fibromyalgia, sleep apnea, and associated obesity, we cover our ears and shake our heads “NO! NOT DIET AND EXERCISE.” We extend our hands for a prescription; if the prescription is refused, we call the HMO office and complain against the good doctor; finally, because it said so on TV, we drive across the street to the health store where we empty our bank accounts and mortgage our houses to pay for the pills and potions that will make us all better, leaner, and gain eternal youth.
Meanwhile, bariatric surgeons are getting fat on lapband and roux-en-Y surgeries. We can’t blame them either. They actually do something: they CURE… If only for a while, they take away diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease with a stroke of their scalpel. That is, until we fall back into our bingeing habits or ail from vitamin deficiencies or fractures.
We can’t help ourselves, can we? Why is it so hard to exert personal restraint on our eating habits? Why is it so hard to work 30 minutes of exercise in our daily routines? If I had the answer, I’d be rich.
This is not to say that obesity is at the root of all illness, although it does account for $ 147 billion in annual cost and represents 10% of our national budget. It is to say, however that obesity is the result of our collective lack of personal and social responsibility at all levels.
From the government, top to bottom, Federal to City, too slow in implementing policies (school lunches, healthy WIC foods); to the media and Hollywood, complacent in their acceptance of obesity as the new norm; to employers, strong-armed into hiring unhealthy obese workers for fear of discrimination lawsuits; to the legal system that protects the right to choose to be obese; to the conscienceless food manufacturers and retailers who addict and poison us with high-fat-high-sugar-and-will-you-supersize-for-a-quarter-more deals; and to the advertising giants that feed us “you-want-to-get-fat” messages is many subtle and not-so-subtle forms: globally, we live in a toxic environment. In this war, we, the citizen-consumer, born healthy with the RIGHT TO HEALTH (but not to healthcare), are hostage, victim, and a casualty.
To reclaim and defend our right to health, our first action should be counter-action:
- Boycott sodas, cookies, crackers, chips, and sugary cereal;
- Pester our local food chains for decentralized produce carts;
- Lobby our city councils for safe parks, wide sidewalks, bike lanes, bus routes, and recreational programs for all ages;
- Support legislation to review school lunch programs and allocate higher per-meal allowance;
- Support the implementation of a nutrition curriculum in all schools, with courses written and supervised by registered dietitians and other trained professionals;
- Support legislation allowing employers to sanction obese employees who refuse to enroll in healthy living programs (this already exists for alcohol and drug users);
- Allow for insurance surcharge or lower benefits on obese patients, while giving a break to healthy patients and formerly obese patients who maintain a healthy weight… for a start.
I know –and I hope– this article will shock some of you and will launch others into thought and action. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY is the only way to ensure our personal health.
Save Illness Care dollars for those who really need it, those who, by a twist of fate or the will of God, were born with impaired health.