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US Health Is Not About Money, It Is About Common Sense

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It seems we Americans just can’t help ourselves. A petty point often made by foreign anti-American intellectuals is that the US, despite its riches – or perhaps, because of them – has the world’s largest population of obese and unhealthy people. It would appear that such criticism, though I hate to admit it, is somewhat justified.

Although the number of people smoking went down during the early 1990s, and despite intense public knowledge that smoking is harmful and the social negatives that come with it, tobacco use has risen while long-term smokers who survived the habit a decade ago are still partaking. A whopping 21 percent of Americans are obese.

The average life expectancy of Americans is only 69.3 years. Twenty-eight countries are healthier and have longer life expectancies than the US, including Great Britain, France, Germany and Japan. The American infant mortality rate is twice that of Japan’s.

More worrying is that the number of young Americans graduating high school, which could certainly be said to affect health and life expectancy, is down to 68.3 percent. It is scandalous that the number of high school graduates is below 70 percent in what is considered a literate nation!

A lot of it has to do, of course, with America’s screwy health-care system, which gives the finest care in the world, yet is the most expensive – and for which a significant part of the population is uninsured and can not afford. But it’s not the entire story.

The US, despite its disparate health-care system, could still rank among the top nations for health and life expectancy if only more people weren’t so, in a word, ignorant about what constitutes a healthy life.

Rich or poor, it is basic knowledge that smoking is harmful and potentially carcinogenic. It should be common sense to anyone, no matter what their economic profile, that sitting on your posterior all day in front of the television while consuming McDonald’s and Ho-Hos three times a day will not help promote a healthy heart or a svelte body shape.

A significant amount of those who are considered unhealthy have only themselves to blame. Which is why it is refreshing to hear Reed Tuckson, vice president of the nonprofit organization United Health Foundation, declare that basic health issues are “not about more government money and heavy funding.” Do we really need to launch a government program and/or create a government agency just so Americans can learn to adopt a healthy lifestyle? Or maybe that’s to be expected from a nation where people can sue McDonald’s or Hershey’s for “making” them fat.

If you’re obese, start eating healthy foods. Exercise. If you smoke, stop. If you don’t have a high school diploma, get your GED and actually do something about improving your lot in life, instead of demanding that the government take care of you.

Mr. Tuckson is right. No amount of money is going to help people to become healthy. Changing one’s lifestyle, meals, and habits will see to that – and that won’t cost a penny.

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  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Lisa McKay

    Smoking prevalence continues to decline in the US. I would argue that it was the efforts of the Surgeon General’s office in the 1960s (backed by a very intensive anti-smoking campaign paid for by federal tax dollars, not to mention all of the federally-sponsored research that has been done on the health effects of smoking) that led to our current state of affairs (the prevalence of smoking among adults 18 and over in 2004 was less than 21%, down from 42.4% in 1964). When throwing money at a problem results in educating the public, sometimes it is the best way to attack a problem.

  • tommyd

    France, for example, has a high rate of smokers, but 40% less occurences of heart attacks than in the US, who, are currently waging an outright war against smokers? (amongst other failed “wars”)

    If we live and let live and stop following the Jones’, then Americans might loosen up and actually enjoy life. The way it is now, Americans are the most high-strung, stressed-out, sociopathic bunch of mean people. That’s why we’re not living long.

  • Bliffle

    Right! Of course. And irrefutable. But the problem is that we are constantly indoctrinated into an unhealthy lifestyle by advertising, whose goal seems to be selling us cheap carcinogens at high prices.

    The first step to health, therefore, must be to abandon all advertising. Not just some, not the bad advertising, but ALL, advertising. Because we are slaves to advertising. We do not have the judgement left to decide which is good and which is bad. Since it is killing us we must abandon all. Even the big strong determined people who think they can resist are slaves. The advertisers KNOW exactly how to sell us that crap. They employ the best psychologists to find the sales path. The besyt psychologists in the world are NOT down at the local high school helping distraught teenagers for $30k per year. They are on Mad Ave figuring out how to plant the desire for egregious crap in your helpless brain at fabulous 6 figure salaries. And they have the best research organizations in the world to measure the effectiveness of their ‘campaigns’ (an admission they are comitting war on you). Do I lie? Do I exaggerate? But they themselves admit it, nay they brag about it! When they pitch their services to clients and prospects they can PROVE the effectiveness with statistics and numerical analysis.

    There are some things you can do:

    -stop watching commercial TV. Get rid of your cable and satellite service. You’re just paying TWICE for program hours that are fully 1/3 ads. That’s right, 20 minutes of every hour are ads. If you LIKE TV as I do, watch the PBS and low profile commercial stations. Get yourself an “Over The Air” (OTA) DIGITAL TV system with HDTV. By FCC law, every analogue TV station must also propagate a DTV signal. An interesting side benefit of DTV is multi-subchannels, whereby most stations actually have 2 feeds (my local PBS has 4 feeds), which is just like having extra stations. Get a DVR like TiVo so you can watch program content without ads, for those few commercial programs worth watching.

    -Cancel your magazine subscriptions and your newspaper subscriptions. They are dominated by ads.

    -Cut out internet spam by installing good spam filters AND revise any online webpages to remove plaintext versions of your email address.

    -Shop every day for groceries and get fresh food. Avoid all convenience foods and packaged foods. When you enter the store go IMMEDIATELY to the fresh produce section and load up on fresh fruits, veggies, berries, nuts and a little tiny bit of meat. DO NOT BUY things in cardboard boxes or wrapped in plastic. Do not buy frozen food. Do not buy white starchy food: white potatoes, spaghetti, rice, etc. Do not buy fruit juices (let alone soda pop) because the concentrated sugars will make you fat and give you diabetes. Instead of orange juice buy oranges.

    Do NOT take your children with you shopping! They are absolutely dominated by created impulse shopping from TV. they are the ultimate over-consumers. Do NOT take them to a grocery store!

    You might think the meals will be boring since they aren’t full of overpriced salt, fat and sugar, but the cure is to have fresh tasty fresh produce every day. Buy a tiny $4 basket of blue berries even thought they are high-priced! Even at high prices the tastiness and healthiness makes them a far better taste and health deal than the salt/fat/sugar tasties in cardboard boxes that you know so well from TV ads.

    Walk! Don’t worry about running or biking or gym exercising. You can do that ALSO if you have extra time and money and resolution. You can walk anywhere, anytime, and no special equipment is required. How long to walk? Until you feel yourself throwing your legs and yourself forward in a stimulating way. Shuffling won’t do. Strolling won’t do. Though you might have to use those impostors to get started. If you pin your exercise routine on the gym or the bike you will have to keep the equipment nearby, make reservations, change clothes, etc. All stumbling blocks.

  • jimmyjam

    The author has some valid points, but what no anti-smoking advocate will point out (or likes to hear) is that both France and Japan have 2-3 times the number of smokers as are in the U.S., yet the average life span for the French and Japanese is 10-15 years longer than in the U.S. While no one will argue smoking is good for you, is it really the root cause of the shorter life span, or is it just poor diet and lack of excercise. I submit that it is the latter, and no one can prove otherwise.