First–a little background
After studying all about health and food since 2002, publishing a book in 2011, and blogging for over 600 consecutive days; I have concluded that our choice of what to eat is the most important decision in the history of the human race.
The way we eat determines the quality of our own health, it determines how we use the entire planet, and it greatly affects our longterm sustainability as a species.
Although some positive changes in our collective food choices in the western world are beginning to happen, they’re not happening nearly fast enough to make enough of a difference in the vast array of inter-connected problems that we face. Problems like world hunger, climate change, lack of fresh water and an overall ecosystem in great peril.
What we need is leadership. While I have been hoping that the world’s most famous vegan, President Bill Clinton, would provide that leadership, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.
I have now concluded that the leadership we need must come from the chief executives of large corporations—those who have a financial incentive for their millions of employees to be healthy.
As news of those employees becoming healthy spreads and cost of health care plummets for those organizations—other corporations will follow suit and an incredible series of chain reactions will be set in motion. Chain reactions that involve many of our most urgent global issues.
The remainder of this blog is in the form of an open letter to the executive chairman of one of our nation’s largest, and best-known corporations. That chairman not only shares the world famous name of the founder, but he is also a prominent environmentalist, he is a “big picture” visionary AND he has been eating a vegan diet for a number of years.
The great grandson of Henry Ford; his name is William Clay Ford, Jr., the Executive Chairman of the Ford Motor Company, #9 on the Fortune 100 list, and an American-born industrial icon with 164,000 employees. See short video of Mr. Ford beneath this letter:
— URGENT (October 15, 2012) —
Dear Mr. Ford,
As a concerned American, I am writing today to ask for your help. Our nation, the entire world and all of its people desperately need the kind of “big picture” leadership that only a handful of business executives can provide. The topic is the cost of health care, which is driven by our food choices, which in turn drive many factors affecting the longterm sustainability of the human race.
Health care costs in the United States are choking our economy, bankrupting our nation, draining our personal bank accounts and hand-cuffing our employers. Since 1960, the cost of health care in the United States as a percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) has risen sharply from 5.2% in 1960 to the 18% that we have today. Most of this huge problem is driven by our food choices — and it’s still getting worse.
That’s because people are getting sicker, fatter, and more dependent on prescription drugs than ever before. And, with advancing technology and personalized treatments, the cost of medical procedures continues to escalate with no end in sight. Now projected by our government to hit 31% of our nation’s GDP by 2035, this unsustainable cost of “disease” must be addressed now.
Our food choices (and related health care costs) are now bankrupting many nations. Those food choices are also affecting many other global issues. We’re running out of land, we’re running out of water, we’re inflicting incalculable damage on our ecosystem, we’re squandering our finite fossil fuels and the unchecked food-driven impact on global warming could spell disaster for all living creatures on this planet.
How do we get out of this mess? Who will be the first major world leader to step forward and take decisive action? Who will begin the process by dramatically reducing the cost of health care in his/her business and, in so doing, set off many of powerfully positive chain reactions throughout the world? I have concluded that it will be someone with a financial incentive to do so. Someone like you, Mr. Ford, and the senior executive team at the Ford Motor Company.
As the 2011 movie Forks Over Knives reported, an estimated 80% of the cost of health care is driven by our toxic western diet. So, all we have to do is get everyone to adopt a health-promoting diet of whole, plant-based foods and we’ll save a quick two trillion dollars. Sounds easy enough, but who is going to lead the charge?
- Elected officials? How could they possibly get elected if they ran on a platform that challenged the wildly popular “Standard American Diet?”
- Medical doctors? How could they make a living if suddenly everyone got healthy and 80% of our medical “procedures” simply disappeared?
- Pharmaceutical companies? Ditto, what happens if the need for drugs suddenly drops 80%?
- Health insurance companies? If everyone got healthy, the risk of disease would plummet and the entire health insurance industry would be a mere shadow of its former self.
- The food industry? Over 90% of our calories today are not health-promoting. They include meat, dairy, eggs, and refined carbohydrates. The food industry wants to maintain the status quo and thereby protect every segment of its disease-promoting industry.
- The nutritional scientists? Just as our medical schools are controlled by the pharmaceutical industry, our schools of nutrition are controlled by the food producers.
- Respected journalists in the media? Hardly. They get paid by the producers of the food.
None of the above. There are over 30 million people working in the above seven sectors of our national economy—the seven sectors who are in the best position to influence what we eat in this country. And not a single one of them has a financial incentive for us to become healthy. As a well-known American philosopher has observed:
“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health…and are treated by the health industry which pays no attention to food.” —- Wendell Berry
Enter the profit-motivated corporate executive—like you. Unlike the many people working in the seven sectors mentioned above, the CEOs of the world have a financial incentive for their employees to be healthy. And by taking urgent steps to promote health (and profitability) in their own corporations, these forward thinking executives will attract the attention of businesses, governments and institutions all over the world.
By helping hundreds of thousands of employees take charge of their own health, these leaders will quickly affect the thinking of millions of people around the world. News anchors will be asking, “What’s going on at Ford? They are the only Fortune 100 company in the United States whose cost of health care per employee is actually going down. What is their secret?”
Knowing of your plant-based eating preference, I have watched a few of your videos and am well aware of your “big picture” vision and your respect for our environment. I am writing now to request a meeting to talk about moving forward with a program at Ford that could change the world. We start by helping your employees learn to take charge of their own health. They will tell their friends and families and other business leaders will begin to take notice of what is happening at Ford.
In one of your videos, you talked about “creating a future that’s going to make people’s lives better.” By teaching all 164,000 of your employees how to take charge of their health, you will be doing just that—and so much more. You will be helping them, their families, our nation, our world—and the bottom line of the Ford Motor Company. Now that’s what I call goal congruence.
As you said in your Ted Talk, “I believe we’re at our best when we’re confronted with big issues.” Well, sir, there has never been a bigger issue in the history of the human race than this one—and we would love the opportunity to work on that huge global issue with you. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sincerely, J. Morris Hicks, author, speaker, consultant and former business executive
PS: If you’re interested in these concepts, perhaps you could invite me to speak at the Detroit Economic Club. You can reach me at 917-399-9700, or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For another video of Bill Ford, I recommend that you watch his 16-minute Ted Talk, listed first. Also, for your convenience, I have provided a few of my earlier blogs on this topic of leadership:
- For a PDF copy of the above letter, click here.
- Video. Bill Ford on Global Gridlock, Ted Talk, June 2011
- Earlier blog. Slashing the cost of health care in businesses…
- Earlier blog. Are corporate wellness programs working?
- Earlier blog. The kind of passionate executive leadership that is needed Big Passion = Big Results.
- Earlier blog. Whole Foods Market; more than just a grocery store
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to email@example.com
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Got a question? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
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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