As the mainstream media begins to ask more questions
One of the latest, and most prominent, to weigh in on this topic is Geoff Colvin, Senior Editor at Large of Fortune Magazine. In a recent article (See link below), he asks a simple question:
The central mystery in America’s health care crisis is a simple question: Why don’t people take better care of themselves? Like many simple questions, it leads into deep waters. It demands that we confront a profound new reality about health. Most important, it requires us to reframe the debate over paying for health care.
Later in the article, he acknowledges our “unsustainable health care cost trends” and suggests that “most of the debating will be over the wrong question.” Mr. Colvin is on the right track although he probably doesn’t fully comprehend the extent of our dilemma—particularly as it relates to the “Academic UnFreedom” at our premier schools of nutritional science like Cornell. But he does understand that most of our health care tab is spent on treating lifestyle diseases:
The great majority of America’s staggering $2.6 trillion health care tab (as of 2010) was spent treating lifestyle diseases. While we rightly worry about health care costs rising 8% or 9% a year, we spend well over 50% of our costs on diseases caused mostly by the way we choose to behave.
If we would smoke and drink a little less, walk a little more, eat a few more vegetables and fruits, and lose some weight, the effect would be far more dramatic than most people suspect.
“More than 90% of type 2 diabetes, 80% of coronary artery disease, 70% of stroke, and 70% of colon cancer are potentially preventable” by that combination of moderate behavior changes, reports Harvard epidemiologist Walter C. Willett. In other words, by making realistic changes that are entirely within our own control, we could end the crisis of unsustainably rising U.S. health care costs. Which brings us to that simple question: Why don’t we?
Good question. And I have written a 200-page book with 306 footnotes—and published 453 consecutive daily blogs trying to answer it. Yet the question remains why we don’t aggressively begin to “make realistic changes” within our own control. And my answer to that is the same as the one the late Dr. W. Edwards Deming often stated, the top three reasons nothing has happened is: Leadership, Leadership and Leadership.
That’s right. What we need is committed, consistent leadership—not just an occasional article, news special or speech by prominent figures. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate every single bit of support that we get—like these words from Mr. Colvin, but our dilemma demands so much more.
Like Mr. Colvin’s article, we occasionally hear from other prominent, mainstream individuals on this topic—but their message is soon forgotten due to the lack of continuity. The following come to mind:
- Dr. Sanjay Gupta and his “Last Heart Attack” CNN special last summer. This was about as good as it gets. Unfortunately, we’ve not heard much from CNN or any of the major networks since.
- Dr. Oz and his one show featuring Dr. Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Barnard. He also had one other show featuring the power of a plant-based diet to lower cholesterol in just 48 hours. But, over 90% of his airings feature some kind of fad diet or some other confusing message that contradicts his other good works.
- Mark Bittman and his occasional powerful piece on the harmful, wasteful, cruel and gross unsustainability of the typical Western diet. Then, he gets right back to featuring all forms of that same harmful and wasteful diet in most of his columns.
As for Mr. Colvin, he has the right idea and makes a good closing point. But when will we hear from him again on this all-important topic? What is he going to do next to help us “seize the enormous opportunity” to reduce our out-of-control cost of health care? His words below are brilliant; we just need so much more…
We need to reframe the debate: not how to share health care’s economic burden, but how to seize the enormous opportunity to reduce it.
In closing, a related 3-29-12 article reinforces the need for action. See links to both articles below:
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Three days of Supreme Court arguments have left the fate of the 2010 health care reform law uncertain. What is certain, however, is that health care costs are continuing to eat away at consumers’ budgets.
The cost to cover the typical family of four under an employer plan is expected to top $20,000 on health care this year, up more than 7% from last year, according to early projections by independent actuarial and health care consulting firm Milliman Inc. In 2002, the cost was just $9,235, the firm said.
The projected increase marks the fifth year in a row that health care costs will rise between 7% and 8% annually.
Question: When will a prominent & consistent leader emerge?
Colvin article in Fortune: We’re having the wrong debate about rising health care costs
CNN Money article regarding rising health care costs. 3-29-12
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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation
Leaders are important for sure! However, in the Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about individual, organizational, and population habits. According to him, one of the most powerful forces for large scale change such as occurred during the civil rights movement in the 60’s is the power of weak connections among many individuals that develops peer pressure to make changes. Food for thought, and I recommend the book – fascinating reading.
“Smoke and drink a little less, eat a few more vegetables and fruits” – Wow, way to incentivize people. The problem I have with the few people who do speak out in mainstream publications is that they never paint a dire enough picture. Since when is smoking a little less a good goal? How much will it improve peoples’ health, in real terms, to “add a few more vegetables and fruits” if they don’t cut out saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, processed food? If you tell people they need to change their behavior a little, they won’t change it at all. They need to be bombarded with the message that their behaviors are killing them, bankrupting the country, and they must change their behaviors a LOT. If they think they need to make big changes, maybe some will actually make small changes. Sigh.
I always enjoy reading Sal’s passionate comments, and the blog. I do not feel that we can be LED. I feel that we can be guided and then the choice to change and the follow through is personal. We each must be the change we wish to see in the world. Paradoxically, it seems we were easily led away collectively from nature by big oil and big pharma and big agra. The return to nature, plant- based eating, likely won’t move collectively and quickly. Plant-based eating is both too easy and not easy enough. It is hard to package and promote. I am sold, but through my own personal research and instinct, but find that selling it to others is a challenge. Keep up the good work that you are doing, Jim. You are an inspiration and I hope that you continue to spread the good word.
And so it goes, little pieces of grandiose dialogue . . . America needs to change its destructive path to health Armageddon . . . and who shall lead them?