Ezekiel J. Emanuel, writing in last Sunday's New York Times, insists that "We Can Be Healthy And Rich", suggests that wise cost control measures can produce greater health care efficiency in the US. There is no doubt that we need greater health in the US, although I'm not sure that cost cutting in the health care industry will take us far in that pursuit. I have no argument that we spend too much on health care, although Emanuel cites likely cuts in labor costs and the tough pill we'll have to swallow, much like the displaced agricultural workers yielded to the tractor's appearance on the scene. Emanuel happily reports that now, rather than 40% of our income paying for food, we pay less than 10%, but he is probably off base when he credits the tractor for that savings. Factory farms, farm subsidies, and processed foods put barely palatable food-like substances on many plates, economizing in the food budget at great cost to our health both in financial and real life expenses. As a nation we are overweight, out of shape, depressed, and over-medicated and giving us greater access to hospitals and more prescription medications will not change that assessment.
The real path to being "Healthy and Rich" is to count good health as one of our riches and be willing to pay for it, through our wallets when we can, and through our labor when we are economizing. Let me just name a few simple steps we can each take, on our own, today - without waiting for the Affordable Care Act to re-arrange the health care industry.
- Eat real food. Real food includes pasture-raised meat, dairy and eggs, wild fish, fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, and carefully chosen and well-prepared grains. Real food is cooked at home and eaten at a table.
- Get outside more! Exercise should include a generous amount of just moving around interspersed with a few episodes of week of doing something vigorous and - temporarily! - exhausting. Run up a flight of stairs, try some squats or other high intensity interval exercise.
- Connect with meaning. Whether you find significance in a spiritual, political or cultural connection, or on a sports team, find satisfying ways to connect with other people in ways that are meaningful to you.
- Avoid toxins: okay that's a big one. From nanoparticles in foods (thanks again NY Times) to chemicals in dryer sheets, household cleansers, personal care products, and fluoride in the water, there are many areas where a "green" choice is better for your health. Check out the Sustainable Living portion of this website for suggestions and contact me if you want more information.
Many people have said it, and I'll join them: our best hope for a healthy future is to take charge of our own health. It would be fabulous if personal health care empowerment were part of the national health care debate, but I'm not going to wait for that, are you?