The idea that the poor state of health among Americans can only be addressed with effective health care services is impractical and unrealistic. It is a known fact that a healthy diet is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of illness in our society. Thus, it would be more sensible to put more attention on improving the condition of food quality and education regarding accurate dietary standards.
The Hefty Price of Health Care
On average, Americans spends $5,500 out-of-pocket on health care each year. The biggest share of this cost is made up of insurance premiums. A comparison of health insurance plans in India, the U.S. and European countries illustrates that cost of insurance in the U.S. is outrageous. In India, health care insurance spending totals only about $3.7 billion for 1.3 billion people. In Europe, the health insurance bill for 33 countries combined and 509 million people totals $708 billion. Compare this to $1.1 trillion in the U.S. for only 326 million people.
Families that are unsubsidized by Obamacare or employer benefits carry an even bigger burden. They spend anywhere from 10 to 17 percent of their household income on insurance premiums. (This is calculated using country averages.) In addition, out of pocket health expenses for these households could amount to the average deductible of $7,900 per year. Thus, for an average household making $60,000 per year, this could mean 23 percent of their income is spend on health care!
The costs don’t stop there. Productivity losses linked to absenteeism due to poor health cost employers about $150 billion each year. In addition, corporations pay billions per year to subsidize health insurance for their employees.
Poor Food Quality Equal Poor Health
As the U.S. government continues to struggle in establishing a health care system that is economical for both citizens and institutions, it seems reasonable to also consider a different perspective. This perspective looks at improving health with better food quality and improved dietary standards.
The food industry in the U.S. might as well be called the chemical food industry. Most live foods are over-treated with pesticides and herbicides. Many are also genetically altered or enhanced.
Moreover, packaged foods are made with various agri-business by-products, such as high-fructose corn syrup, and food processing by-products, such as pulp refuse and pomace. Finally, producers prepare processed and semi-processed foods with countless chemically-created ingredients. The most common are preservatives, sweeteners, colorants and flavor-enhancers.
Consequently, unless you’re eating 100% organic, non-GMO foods, you’re likely getting much less nutrition from your foods than your ancestors. Furthermore, you’re likely putting more stress on the body as it has to digest, filter and eliminate all of the additional chemicals you’re putting in the body. The two combined make it more difficult for the body to fight off disease.
Lack of Effective Nutritional Education
Finally, there’s the state of dietary education, which does not sufficiently stress the significance of eating a healthy diet. School children do learn about the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables, but school systems do not teach by example.
Most public schools offer school lunches mostly made of processed and prepackage foods. As well, primary schools offer ice cream, candy, sodas and chips for children to buy. Visit any U.S. public school lunchroom and look on the children’s plates. You will find very few fruits, and even fewer vegetables.
Children learn though experience. Thus, one of the most effective ways to truly revamp dietary habits is to engaged students in growing their own organic foods. Then, schools could serve fresh produce as part of school meals.
Little Effort to Change Established Dietary Habits
Looking at nutritional education beyond primary schools, it is a small component of the higher medical school system. Most doctors give very little nutritional guidance beyond over-generalized advice, like “Eat more vegetables,” and “Drink your milk.” Instead, many family practitioners have become a distribution arm of the pharmaceutical industry. As a result, the people we turn to for health advice do very little to help us establish better dietary habits.
No wonder that the typical Western diet still consists of 50 to 80 percent carbohydrates!
Of course, the U.S. government has made some feeble attempts to change this. Thus, in 2005 and 2011, the USDA revamped the notoriously outdated Food Pyramid. The newest USDA graphic (below) shows that about half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.
This is definitely a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, old habits are hard to break and a new graphic sure isn’t going to change much. Moreover, what percentage of U.S. adults do you think have actually seen USDA’s new food guidelines? The number is likely very low.
Without additional robustness in nutritional education at all levels, as well as an overhaul of the food industry’s quality standards, we are not likely to see any significant changes in how and what people eat. As a result, a growing share of Americas will suffer from illness and face the burden of high-costs of health care in the U.S.
The poor health of the American public and the rising cost of health care are significant issues that need attention. Yet, it’s important to consider that the answers don’t necessarily reside solely in the hands of the health care industry.
“The Doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas A Edison, 1847-1931
About the Author
Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.
This article (New Perspectives on Improving Health Care in the U.S.) originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Alex Pietrowski and WakingTimes.com.