Want Health Care Reform? Start with the Food System!

I’m growing weary of all the talk about health care reform. Much of what I hear is still centered around old ways of thinking about health – reactive medicine and doctoring. It’s becoming more and more evident that the  two things which will bring about real change to our broken health care world are prevention and food system fixes.

We’ve spent trillions and trillions of dollars on prescriptions and procedures and putting people in the hospital over and over again. Disease rates skyrocket and people who are younger and younger continue to be affected by degenerative disease. Let’s stop all this, do something that works, and make a difference in the health of the average citizen!

At the beginning of the Obama administration this past January, I had high hopes that this might actually be the season of real change in the health care system, as many promises were made that seemed solid. After all, things have just about hit rock bottom, right? Or could it get worse?

I spent a good portion of the year writing letters to state congresspersons and federal decision-makers about prevention and food system fixes being an integral component of health care change. Most of the responses I received were something of this nature:

Dear Friend:

Thank you for writing to me.  I appreciate hearing from you and value your input.

Each day, I am moved by the messages I receive from people across the country.  Far too many Americans are struggling–falling behind on mortgage payments, coping with illness, or losing a job without warning.  My Administration is working to address the serious challenges our Nation faces.  I am committed to taking immediate
steps that generate job creation and economic recovery, and I am determined to make investments that lay a new
foundation for real and lasting progress.

To build this new foundation, we need health care reform–this year–that reduces costs, protects health care choices, and assures quality, affordable care for all Americans.  I encourage you to visit www.HealthReform.gov to learn more about my commitment to enacting comprehensive health care reform in 2009.

I am also dedicated to building a clean energy economy that creates millions of jobs, helps us achieve energy independence, and reduces pollution as we tackle the effects of global warming.  Please visit www.Recovery.gov to read about the more than $60 billion in clean energy investments my Administration has made to jump-start our economy and build the jobs of tomorrow.

To prepare our children to thrive in the global economy, we must guarantee every child a complete and competitive education.  For information about my education reform agenda, please join me online at: www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/education.

At the same time, we have an obligation to rein in our budget deficit by cutting wasteful spending and ineffective programs.  We can do all this, and change the way business is done in Washington, by building the most open, transparent, and accountable government in our history.

While we repair our communities, we must also recognize the important contributions of our service men and women in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other nations.  Our military and their families have borne an enormous burden for their fellow citizens, serving with honor and succeeding beyond any expectation.  For those who have been injured or lost their lives in pursuit of our freedom, we owe them our undying gratitude.  I am committed to assisting our servicemembers, veterans, and their families and honoring our debts to them.

Information on jobs, health benefits, housing assistance, and other public resources for those in need can be found by calling 1-(800)-FEDINFO or by visiting: www.usa.gov.

The only way to solve the problems of our time is to involve all Americans in shaping the policies that affect our
lives.  I hope you continue to explore www.WhiteHouse.gov, which is regularly updated and more interactive than ever before.  Thank you again for writing.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

Not one sentence in this response even came close to addressing mine or anyone else’s concerns and points made about food system repair and prevention. I realize the President has a tremendous job and doesn’t have time for individual responses. But it’s absolutely unthinkable that no one with power or influence seems to be able to comprehend what needs to be done – especially a person who is so educated and informed as Mr. Obama.

It’s common knowledge that America spends more on health care than anyone else in the world, but finishes almost dead last (no pun intended) in life expectancy of nations with wealth. Clearly what we’ve been doing is not working…come on people, WAKE UP!

As a mother of a family with no health insurance,  I can say one thing – we don’t use conventional doctor services much anyway – even before my husband got laid off and we started our solar business in June. We practice prevention. We eat real, traditional foods, we try to avoid toxins in our diet, home, and personal products as much as possible. We take our responsibility to prevent problems seriously.

But what if we had an accident? As a family still trying to regain our footing after the loss of our primary income in May of this year and having just started a small business, we can’t afford health insurance right now. It’s pretty evident what would happen to us. But people who take care of themselves get sick less – it’s an irrefutable fact. So why should people who don’t burden the health care system be penalized when they really need help with unfathomable medical bills? Basic medical services shouldn’t bankrupt people.

I know people who believe that the health care system should stay the way it is. I respectfully disagree. And to those who say they want change and who are moving toward it, here’s a news flash: what’s proposed is just not going to solve the problem.

Throwing billions of dollars at Big Pharma is not going to make people healthier nor keep drug prices down for when people really need them. The pervasive overuse of drugs, as is the practice in our current health care system, keeps people sick and drives costs up with no end in sight. And that’s just a start – that’s not even mentioning what it does to our food system and farms.

But I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t really matter who’s in office – whether it’s a Democrat, Republican or Independent party candidate, that the overall mentality of the average politician is centered on supporting Big Business, Big Agribusiness, and Big Pharma – which certainly doesn’t involve doing what’s best for the health of the American people. A truly progressively-minded decision-maker who understands the issues and knows what needs to be done would stop all this silly pandering toward the big players and announce policy changes in the food system that will really make a difference.

When I say to people that the administration is doing nothing at all to address preventative coverage in insurance and educational measures, and repairing the food system, I get the usual blank look and sometimes they reply back in a monotone voice, “yeah.”  But having an intelligent conversation about this issue that really gets at the heart of the problem is pretty rare. This reaffirms to me that the average citizen is wholly uninformed and ignorant about health care and food. This is not a good thing!

Here is a great article published nearly a year ago on The Daily Green that sums up my feelings perfectly. It’s as true today as it was just before the Presidential Election in January of this year. To reform a health care system that is as badly damaged as our own, we have to start where the problems begin – with our food system and education about preventative lifestyles. No health care reform that centers on a more stepped up “food safety” program and increasing taxes to pay for health care and insurance premiums that don’t provide coverage for preventative care will ever improve the state of overall health of the average citizen in this country. Period.

Real Health Care Reform Starts with Our Food System

By Peter Berley, January 10, 2008

It appears that Americans have finally become fed up enough with the way things are to demand change, or have we?

Thus far, I haven’t heard a single candidate talk about the fundamental changes that must take place if we as a nation are serious about becoming strong and vibrant.

I haven’t heard “It’s the food system, stupid…”

The establishment of a new national health insurance policy, no matter how universal or complete, has little to do with a real change in national health. Nor will it go far in addressing our weak connection as a nation to the sources of our nourishment.

Insurance does not bring about real change in the ways in which we lead our lives. It does not address the root causes of our sickness. And it does little to change our dependence on others for our health.

To be fair, health insurance has the potential to go a long way towards the alleviation of symptomatic pain, short-term stabilization of life threatening diseases and emergency medicine. It is shameful that we as a nation have accepted for so long the status quo and allowed our leaders to remain puppets of drug companies.

Health insurance ultimately will never serve our greatest healthcare needs, nor address our deepest ignorance and fears. Every one of us must learn how to create healthy lives. How to take care of our own bodies hearts and minds.

None of the present crop of candidates is getting what real health care reform is all about. Perhaps because no one has explained it to them.

For instance, I found it strikingly odd that the sponsors of the debates in New Hampshire aired this past week were paid for in large part by the very drug companies that have a stranglehold on our health and whose greatest interest lies in profiting from our continued dependence on their products and belief in their message that we are incapable of controlling our own health destinies.

If I were Obama, Edwards, Clinton, Huckabee, or any other candidate representing change, here’s what I would propose:

Public schools would have food and health curriculums:

1. Cooking, bread baking and gardening.

2. Self care and home remedies.

3. Food studies: The study of traditional food-ways, agriculture, fishing, hunting and animal husbandry.

4. Food history

5. Food science

And, I would like to ask each candidate these questions:

1. What do they see is the connection between the health of our soil and the health of our population?

2. What do they eat at home?

3. What is in their medicine cabinet?

4. Have they spent time with a farmer, fisherman or rancher?

It seems to me that as citizens it is our responsibility to demand mandates for health education and transparent and safe food policy.

I couldn’t have said it any better.

Now, I want to hear from you about what you are doing to help those around you understand the problems we are facing with health care reform, and what reactions are you getting from them. Do you find that people are receptive to the idea of real prevention and food system fixes as central components of health care reform?

Would you like to read more about related topics?

This article is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and read the other real food posts listed there.

2 Comments

  • December 10, 2009 - 5:02 PM | Permalink

    Thank for this. With all the media that gets dumped into pushing health insurance reform, it’s easy to understand how so many people don’t even realize the fact that they’re not even talking about a solution. They’re not even implying that we can be healthy as a nation.

  • December 10, 2009 - 7:02 PM | Permalink

    Psychic Lunch – you are right, they are not talking about a solution, what they are doing is backing us into a very expensive corner that is a first-class-ticket to nowhere. It’s discouraging, but that’s why I write these articles and send letters to Congress and The President. I believe the offices our politicians occupy have become so corrupt, it’s almost laughable that they are actually our “leaders”. It is my hope that someone will step up to the plate and become a real leader and tackle the issues in a way that solves problems, rather than simply creating more.

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