On September 10th, the New York Times ran an Op-Ed by Michael Pollan titled “Big Food Vs. Big Insurance.” In the piece, Pollan reflects on the health care debate and suggests that the fact that the U.S. spends twice as much on health care per person as most European countries is because that, on average, we’re fatter, according to a recent study.
So many chronic diseases are linked to diet, yet people seem slow to use the power they have to eat better and help prevent the development of these illnesses, such as Type II diabetes (which the U.S. is spending $16 billion to treat).
“That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry,” he says, calling the way American’s eat the “elephant in the room” during the healthcare debate.
“To put it more bluntly,” says Pollan, “the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.”
He praises the soda tax and the new “are you pouring on the fat?” anti-sugary beverage ad campaign as well as innovations in the approach to tackling childhood obesity.
Personally, I agree with a lot of what he says, but reforming the food industry is going to take a lot of time and energy. I’d love to see a bunch of people get on board for this and make it priority, but the U.S. really isn’t so big on preventative medicine. You’d almost think they want you to get as sick as possible so you’ll just have to spend more to “fix the problem.” That’s just my cynical viewpoint on it, though perhaps that “wait until a problem develops and then treat just the acute symptoms thing” is more subconscious, something deeply ingrained in our society and not a conscious attempt at making more money.
The main thing I feel after reading this is that I hope a lot more people wake up to the idea that if you work to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the course of your life, you’re more likely to avoid preventable, expensive illnesses. The question is how are you going to wake them up?