Thursday, August 20, 2009

Where Does Sustainable Food Fall in the Health Care Debate?

Whether you are a proponent for public or for private health care, there is an aspect of The United States’ health care system that is completely neglected: sustainable food. It seems the United States health care system has a greater focus on putting a band-aid on health issues as opposed to evaluating their roots: for example, prescribing Ritalin to children constantly hopped up on the high fructose corn syrup found in the majority of our food.

Regardless of the approach, the problem remains the same: reliable health care and sustainable food is available to a fraction of the masses. Whether one expects to change this through policy and increasing advocacy for producers’ presence in the discussion or through a change in the corporate world’s coverage of employee health care and benefits, sustainable food is undoubtedly a missing link in our health care system that needs to be explored.

As an indicator of what poor nutrition does to one’s wallet, The United States spends almost 150 billion dollars a year on health care costs relating to obesity. No doubt a startling number, but more than understandable when one considers that 2/3 of Americans are overweight and 1/3 are considered obese.

In a stab against Obama’s health care policy, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods recently commented: “…how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to (sustainable) food or shelter?”. While Mackey’s article, published August 11th in the Wall Street Journal, received considerable criticism from public supported health care proponents, the question he poses is on task. When considering one’s quality of life, are we evaluating the question by means of a holistic approach or are we focusing our tax dollars and our view of health through a much too narrow scope? Alternative to Mackey’s belief that health care is the individual’s responsibility; I would challenge the United States’ government to view health care in terms of the intrinsic sense of the word and not just in terms of increasing monetary assistance.

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