Today's headlines scream for a health makeover. As the poor are being turned away from free cancer screenings, the is US buckling under the weight of obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. In 2008, only one state (Colorado) had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%.
According to Bloomberg, US companies spent $400 billion on health care costs in 2007, a fivefold increase over two decades. That jaw dropping statistic represents the equivalent of almost one third of the federal budget for 2010. The cost for employers to insure a family of four jumped 131% in the last decade.From the boardroom to the bedroom, health care costs are rising... four time faster than the rate of inflation. So what can we do about it?
- Fund the FDA so that food corporations aren't responsible for "self-regulation". New studies reveal that reports out the Department of Health and Human Services highlight flaws in food safety systems. The study from the HHS found that almost half of 130 food facilities surveyed had failed to provide accurate information to a Food and Drugs Administration. Given the vital role that healthy food plays in the health of our families, this is one agency that can't afford to be underfunded. And asking the food industry to self-regulate is like asking a child not to stick his hand in the cookie jar.
- Focus on Cost Control. According to Bloomberg News, "cost control ought to be at the base of any health-care reform". But it's not in a for-profit pharmaceutical industry whose success is contingent on our ongoing dependency on medicines. Therefore, we'll have to do it ourselves. According to the Wall Street Journal, when fat bottoms started affecting their bottom line, Safeway didn't wait for the federal government to mandate healthy living, they took steps themselves in an effort to cut health care costs by 40%. The cost of obesity is expected to hit $344 billion a year, or 21% of all health care spending. Imagine the cash flow we'd get back if we rewarded healthy living instead of profiting off of illness?
- Impose Fast Food Standards on the USDA's National School Lunch Program. According to USA Today, in the past three years, the government has provided the nation's schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn't meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants, from Jack in the Box, Burger King and other burger places to chicken chains such as KFC. Given that the fast food industry is more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens than the USDA, testing the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools and the program that feeds 30 million American children, perhaps its time to nominate a Children's Health Advisor for the USDA who can implement a 'fast-food' standard at the National School Lunch Program.