Tag Archives: health care reform


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.


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.
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Public Schools, Home School, Health Care Reform, And The Food Industry


Some of you may have noticed the slow down in new articles on this site. The reason for this is that school has started and we are home-schooling this year.

We have four years of home-schooling experience under our belts, but things are different this year because we are using a publicly-funded home-education program which has a specific set of assignments and standards that must be met. The time we spend each day on these tasks is very consuming, unlike the more free-structured, independent home-schooling we’ve done in the past. It may sound like we were slacking off before, but the reality is, my son was far ahead of his class both in his first and second grade years at regular, public school. First grade we were dual-enrolled which means that half our day was spent at home and the other half he was in the classroom.

My motivation to home-school stemmed from my own dissatisfaction with school as I was growing up. I often felt either isolated or unhappy – a sentiment felt by many people. I felt unchallenged by my classes. When I finally had a child of my own, I looked back at my experience and wished there was something better for him to look forward to. I hoped to foster a love of learning at a much earlier age than what appeared in me during my childhood.

When second grade came around, I thought a change might be good to allow him to make friends in the neighborhood and become accustomed to being in an environment that was essentially away from home without ever really being too far away (the school is only one block from our house). I hoped he’d make friends, gain independence, and have a good “at-school” experience that would enrich his life. The school is a small, neighborhood school with an intimate, close-knit group of people. I wanted him to be a part of this and have the benefits of  knowing children from around the neighborhood so that he’d have kids to play with and grow up with.

In his first grade year, he became close friends with a little girl in his class. They were inseparable and shared the same love of creativity and imagination. My son often commented that the activities and games the other children played at recess were dull and uninspiring to him – dodge ball, tag, and soccer. He and the little girl had a special connection. I began to understand that while he intensely disliked organized sports, he loved being active and moving around. His favorite physical activities are climbing, bicycling, and swimming. I made efforts to cultivate those interests and skills by enrolling him in gymnastics and swimming outside of school and taking advantage of our close location to the Boise foothills, by hiking and biking frequently.

During the entire year spent home-schooling half time, it became apparent that my son and I were butting heads a little too often.  I wondered if it was time to enroll him in public school full-time, just to see what would happen. I assumed this would be a positive change for him, and that maybe he and I were spending a little too much time together – we were arguing about school work a lot. He had at least one good friend at school as a foundation, and he would have the opportunity to become close with other children as well.

But what happened over the course of the year was really quite disappointing. Most days I had to drag him out the door to go to school. Often we’d spend more time arguing about being late, and he’d end up in tears (sometimes me as well), and he wasn’t making the friends I’d hoped he would. As with most of the kids at school, the little girl he’d spent all his time with during first grade was starting to play only with other girls. I observed the boys and girls to separate out into groups, which left my son alone with no one to play with since he had not formed any type of connection with any of the boys in his class. Children were not seeking him out to be their friend on the playground or in the classroom. Instead, my son was spending most of his time wandering around at recess trying to find children to play with (he claimed that no one would play with him).

I’d ask him if he ever made attempts to ask the other children to play or join him in one of his favorite games. His response was always that everyone else was already engaged in some activity and wouldn’t break away to play with him – that no one wanted to do anything besides an organized sport or a game he didn’t like. I explained that sometimes in order to find friends you have to compromise and play something you are not especially fond of, but then later you could suggest a game or activity that you like to your new friend.  Another problem was that he was being bullied by a girl in his class, who from my own observations was always nasty and negative to everyone she came into contact with – and the teacher never seemed to notice nor do anything about it, even when I brought up the subject.

I thought for certain this episode would pass.  His persistence in the idea that no one wanted to play with him did not wane over the course of the whole year. I continually reminded him he needed to stay in school for the rest of the year to see if anything changed, and then at that time we’d assess the situation and decide what to do. Many times I had conversations with the teacher and the counselor to try and remedy the problem. The responses I received were mostly that he was doing just fine whenever I was not around, and that a great deal of his problems were likely due to the fact that I was basically around too much and not allowing him to gain badly needed independence.

Finally at the end of second grade, it became evident to me that we needed to do something different. My husband maintained that our son should just go back to school and deal with the hardships, and that it was just part of life. I reminded him that he did not have to deal with our son’s bad mood and negative attitude everyday as I was the one taking him to school, picking him up, and delivering his lunch. Each and every day our son was developing a more negative attitude toward school and school lessons. It was evident that what was occurring was detrimental to his outlook about education.

Choosing to home school

For several weeks we discussed available options. Enrolling in another school away from our neighborhood didn’t seem to be a good solution. In the end, I decided to return to home-schooling because I wanted to give our son something to look forward to again – to not feel left out everyday, isolated, and bullied by those who weren’t being policed for their bad behavior at school. I wanted him to love learning and be in a loving environment where he felt valued and cared for. I knew he did not feel the way he should in the public school where he had spent his first and second grade year because he was inherently unhappy about all the experiences he’d had since his first day of school. As an added bonus, two of his dearest friends (two sisters) were already enrolled in the state program we wanted to become involved with – and we could spend time with them doing activities and lessons.

I had some feelings of ambivalence about starting to home school again – for one, I knew this time around it wouldn’t be as easy as he was older and the curriculum would be more challenging both for him and me. I also had  resentment about the negative experience my son had gone through at school. Why couldn’t my son have friends and fit in like the other children? After all, he is bright, has a good sense of humor, and is very social. So what was the problem? What was happening was essentially this – a child that was once fearless, gregarious, and willing to take chances in social situations had now had his spirit squashed by other children to the point that he was beginning to develop issues of self-confidence and doubt – emotions he had not been acquainted with at all at the start of his first grade year.

What’s going on in public schools?

Some years ago my mother used to talk about the children at the school across the street from her house and how they’d run around and scream like animals on the playground all during their recess period. I figured my mother, being retired, was bored and just had too much time on her hands. But one day as I was out in the yard watering the plants, I listened to the sounds of the kids at the school one block away as I had often done so many times before. In the past I had heard those sounds and thought nothing of it. But this time it occurred to me as I stood there remembering all those times my son had cried and lamented about how much he disliked school that maybe there was a reason for the screaming and tearing around at such speed.

From being a food-conscious parent I know first-hand how under-nourished and poorly fed most children are. At one time, my own son was in that category because I was ignorant and didn’t know any better. I now know that many behavioral, social, emotional, and physical problems occur as a result of poor nutrition, and that this factor is one of the most overlooked in our culture. I realize that children like to run and play and have fun; that’s just part of being a kid. But it dawned on me that maybe the reason the kids are so hyped-up on the playground and exhibit some of these outwardly aggressive and malicious behaviors was due to the fact that they are going into the lunchroom and getting loaded up on industrial food -  high in refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, and then are being sent out to play. Let’s not forget that in general, the food they consume outside of school probably isn’t much better.

My son actually doesn’t display much of the kind of behavior I see in these other kids. He is very sensitive and emotional, but he also has a very highly-developed sense of justice and fairness, and has a low tolerance for other children not playing fairly or nicely. I’ve also noticed another startling difference – my son doesn’t really get hungry between meals. He likes snacks here and there, but mostly he eats his breakfast, lunch, or dinner and gets full. I believe it’s because the meals he’s eating are nutrient dense and satisfy his hunger and nutritional needs.

You’ve heard parents complain that their kids are eating the house down and are always hungry, right? Maybe it’s because they are not making every meal count with nutritious food, and are eating nutritionally-empty foods that don’t satisfy or satiate hunger. Once again, we are reminded that food has an enormous impact on our well-being, emotionally and physically. It’s something that simply cannot go without affecting all facets of our lives.

How does all this affect health and health care?

Which leads me to the next subject of health care reform and the food industry. I can’t help but think how greatly impacted our children will be by the decisions made in Congress and the local legislatures about health care reform and its intrinsic connection to the food industry.  When law-makers leave out the critical components of health care reform:

1) preventative measures

2) education about prevention

3) insurance coverage of preventative health services, and most importantly

4) changes in the way our food industry is allowed to grow, manufacture, distribute, and sell food

they are overlooking the most significant issues that are affecting health care and our health – and any changes made to the system that don’t include these will be for naught.

The way our food is grown and processed and the food we eat makes an impact – socially, physically, spiritually, and

environmentally. Ask yourself, would you make a conscious choice to eat meat from a facility like the one in the picture?

Or would you rather know the food you are eating and feeding your children is raised in a healthy, wholesome environment? What are the repercussions of eating food raised from industrial sources?

So, I urge everyone reading this article to contact your local legislature and congressperson be contacted and communicated with about these issues. They are so important! Even if you don’t have children, please consider the impact a health care reform plan without these critical components will have on our future. It starts with the lifestyle people maintain and the foods they eat – plain and simple.

If children are eating garbage at school every day and then going home and eating more garbage, what possible chance do they have of looking forward to reasonable health as they grow up and continue on into adult life? The answer is, our health care system will continue to favor surgery, drugs, and expensive procedures all because it is not actually geared toward preventative measures that work and actually change the condition of health of the individual. The way we do things now lines the pockets of the drug and industrial food industry – and they are making billions upon billions of dollars off our ignorance and lack of education.

To the current system, preventative measures include things like screening for breast or colon cancer with a mammogram or colonoscopy – two dangerous procedures that can actually be harmful to your health. If cancer is found – what’s the solution? Normally it’s toxic drugs and invasive surgery. If the cancer is removed and the person survives, what’s to say it won’t recur?

Ultimately, cancer can return again and again unless something fundamental is altered – lifestyle habits. But how often do you hear of someone’s doctor telling he or she to eat a truly healthy diet replete with traditional, nutrient-dense foods or to be certain to get enough sunshine and outdoor exercise? All the advice I hear about is usually involves some artificial replacement for real health maintenance – taking synthetic vitamins, going to a health club, eating low-fat foods, or being remiss about emphasizing real, sustainable-produced foods.

If you really want to make changes in our health care and food systems, for ourselves and our children, it all starts with us as individuals – spreading the word, maintaining web sites, contacting our decision-makers in the government and letting them know how we feel and that we won’t accept a health care reform plan that doesn’t tackle the real issues and make an impact on what’s been going on for so many years.

Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green Party, or to whatever affiliation you belong, it’s your duty as an American Citizen to stand up for what’s ethical and moral – make a difference and help to change our health care and foods systems – which go hand in hand, on the basic levels. As with many other things, it starts in local communities and in our schools. Make your voice heard!

For more information about health care reform and preventative measures, read Is Reactive Medicine Cheaper than Preventative? and ACTION NOW! An Open Letter to the President and Other Decision Makers Regarding Preventative Health Care.

For more information about school lunch initiatives, read Changing the Face of School Lunches and Your Voice can Make a Difference in the Way Children Eat School Lunch.

For more information about the food industry, visit the Food Inc. web site.

This article is part of Food Renegades’ Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit this wonderful site and read all of the real food posts there.