Health care is our responsibility, too

David Busch

The health care system entails countless doctors, nurses, billing specialists, health insurance companies, billing companies, researchers and many patients caught up in the whole bureaucratic mess. The health care debate in America is about reforming this large system. It’s a daunting task.

Both parties strongly believe a reform is needed, but each party, fueled by their political ideologies, argues for different ways of reforming this system. The Democrats argue for a public option, among other changes, to compete with health insurance companies, reducing the cost of health insurance. The Republicans argue, among other changes, for a reform of malpractice laws that would cut back on medical lawsuits and reduce unnecessary medical testing and doctor costs. Both of these are vital points to be recognized in the debate and taken into account in reforming health care as a system.

As the health care debate rages in the halls of Congress, there is an elephant sauntering around the halls that is being ignored as unimportant and unnecessary in the health care debate. And this elephant will keep on growing and weighing down the health care system whether the Republicans and Democrats come to an agreement or not. Thus, I am going to step outside this debate over health care as a system and confront this elephant in the room: the American diet.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases,” which include obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In mid-July of this past summer, the journal Health Affairs reported that nearly 10 percent – or $147 billion – of the nation’s health care spending can be traced to one factor: obesity. That’s the elephant in the room, and it’s a very large one indeed. Yes, pun intended.

Our nation’s diet, then, must be taken into account in this important health care debate. Where the debate stands now, the ideological differences between the parties are preventing true debate and discussion in reforming this system. Our nation’s diet, a tangible health issue, should be an aspect of this debate that both parties can agree upon.

Michelle Obama’s act of planting a small vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House and President Barack Obama’s talk of putting a farmers market in front of the White House are symbolic acts that hold volumes in a nation filled with symbolism. The public education system in New York City currently has a bold, new advertising campaign against drinking soda, which accounts for 15 percent of caloric intake among adolescents. These acts should be a point of agreement between both parties that will encourage further dialogue between the parties.

Adding the issue of America’s diet to the health care debate changes the debate from one of ideological differences to one of responsibility. Life is chaotic, even uncontrollable at times, and the reality is that there are scenarios that emerge that can threaten our fragile lives. A cancer patient who is denied health insurance and, thus, health care, is morally wrong and irresponsible. The government needs a reformation of the system so it can be responsible to the citizen. But this debate does not end there.

Our diets, lay not at the government and state level but at the individual level. They are our responsibility. As citizens, we have the responsibility of educating ourselves on what food we consume and how it affects us. We are the cost of health care, and we have a responsibility, too.

David Busch is a junior history and psychology major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]