News Flash! Epidemic sweeps the nation — 25% of people in New Hampshire have tested positive for this disease, 30% in Alaska, 27% in Ohio. In fact, almost every state in the nation has a quarter of its population testing positive for this deadly disease. Deaths attributed to this epidemic are staggering: heart attacks, strokes and even cancers are stemming from this epidemic, there is no realistic end in site. Why is this not reported to us on the news? Why are we not issued alerts on each news update on how to protect ourselves from this worldwide killer?
When the Bird Flu was here we were issued warnings, flu shots, pamphlets to teach us symptoms and warning signs. More recently, with the Swine Flu, we had letters sent home from our school systems encouraging us to wash hands frequently, throw away our dirty tissues, not sneeze without covering our mouths; basic information our sage grandmothers had taught us before we could even tie our own shoes. But caution supersedes the common sense rule here when it comes to prevention of epidemic diseases which can kill. You can go to the World Health Organization site and see the “Flu Alert” system to see when the deadly flu virus will be at your door, dressed in the Grim Reaper costume complete with a runny nose and cough. Watch out, World, here comes — The Flu.
So, why are we not being alerted by the school systems about this larger force which is sweeping the nation and killing hundreds of thousands of people? Where are the warnings on my food products admitting the deadly effects of certain foods like Oreo cookies? Where are the little public health notes on the package of hot dogs stating the symptoms of obesity that we need to look out for when this deadly epidemic begins to have a strangle hold on our waist line? Let me repeat this, 25% of each state has people suffering from this disease; more are developing symptoms daily and there is no government plan doing anything about it at all. In fact, the FDA is suing food companies who are trying to change their approach. How dare Cheerios state something as ludicrous as lowering blood cholesterol levels just by eating a healthier diet, a diet which of course includes Cheerios each morning. Food is not medicine, claims the FDA. (Which is odd to me because the father of medicine, Hippocrates himself said “Let thy food be thy medicine and they medicine be thy food”) So which is it? Is food a deadly force which needs government sanctioning, or isn’t it? My breakfast cereal cannot legally claim it is good for your heart in this regard but the calorie-laden, saturated fat-poisoned, synthetically engineered breakfast sausage carries no harsh warning to eat no more than 10% of your daily calories from saturated fats to prevent death.
More to the point, my children are offered junk food as a lunch choice at school. The same schools which send home the caution pamphlets admonishing “Cover your Mouth When You Cough” offer my kids Pop Tarts,barbecue chicken pizza and pizza supreme lunches. No caution as to the calories in each food item at all, no red flag letting kids know this is about as dangerous and as wholesome a choice as lighting up a cigarette for a meal. People would call that alarmist action with extremist views. But kids are dying from this disease as well. Our children, People! Go to a school one day and sit and wait for the kids to come out of the building, count the overweight children, compared to the kids of normal weight. OK, don’t really do this because sitting outside a school counting children is not a socially acceptable behavior. Instead, rent an ice cream truck for a week and see first hand what is happening to our kids!
The news also comments on the state of our health system and our economic status, and obesity is tied in here as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control, medical expenditures in 2002 related to obesity were a staggering $92.6 billion, of which half were paid by Medicaid and Medicare –tax dollars. That was seven years ago, and we know just by looking around how much of an increase we have had because of this epidemic. Imagine that we poured out $46.3 billion on condiments on our fast food, because we did. The US Census tells us we have 306,642,475 people living here, that breaks down to roughly $151 per person per year. Per person, if you live with 4 people in your home you donated $604 to this disease treatment last year. I don’t think this covers the cost of the lawyers suing Cheerios for their claims of improving health a bowl at a time, either.
So, why aren’t we upset yet? Why are we not writing Congress to alert them we want and demand and deserve change in our food systems, in the quality of healthy foods for kids? When I went to the CDC website to gather the statistics for this article, I noted they do have programs with advice like “Move more and eat less” Why is that not being sent home to kids? Why aren’t we doing anything to stop this epidemic from killing us?