In my lectures I have a habit of going “off topic” with the hope of making a point. Well, I am going to try that approach in this blog. Can you see a connection between cafeteria food and Obamacare? No, I am not going to get political. I am simply going to examine how the government approaches certain challenges, often missing the mark. And I am going to highlight how we waste our time debating sidebar issues without addressing the core of each case.
Our past two Presidents, President Bush and President Obama, have addressed our education system, correctly claiming that it needs gross improvement if we are going to remain globally competitive. President Bush enacted the “No Child Left Behind” program, and President Obama initiated the “Race To The Top” Act. Together, both Presidents believed that we needed better teachers and better teaching. You can’t argue against those reasonable requests. But are those two programs still missing the core issue? From my standpoint, you can’t learn unless you are properly fed and cognitively sharp.
In 2010 Congress passed (hey, they actually passed something!) the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. They wanted to improve the quality of our children’s daily cafeteria diet and they wanted to reduce some of the childhood diseases like the explosion of obesity and early onset diabetes. So, they offered a new food regimen for our schools. Yes, it highlighted a switch to more vegetables and fruit, but it also addressed the agenda of reduced calories for our children. On the surface, that idea seems reasonable. After all, we eat 700 more calories today than we did 20 years ago. But do you know their mistake?
They focused on the quantity of the food, not the quality. What has been the result? A squabble among the school districts in the country with some districts refusing to participate in the program. What should they have done? The government should have shifted the focus from decreasing the quantity of the calories to improving the quality of those calories. In fact, the key goal should not have been reducing calories; it should have been improving the type of calories. Our illnesses are not due to a number (calories); they are due to the ingredients within those calories. In short, for the past several years, our government and our schools have been fighting the wrong issue.
Now, how does that relate to Obamacare? Look at the massive conflict in Congress. Some Congress Representatives hate the Affordable Care Act so much that they prefer to shut down the government rather than let the program be implemented. But these are the same Congress Representatives who have chosen to support subsidies to our large agricultural giants – the companies that have lowered the quality of our food supply and spiked our need for expensive medical care. Thanks to our Congress Representatives, we have the lowest food cost per capita of any industrial country. However, thanks to these same Congress Representatives, we also have the highest health care cost of any industrial country. They created the problem; and they are now debating – ala the cafeteria – the wrong issue.
I do not want to become political. So, I am not going to argue for or against the Affordable Care Act. I will simply point out that we are the only industrial country that does not provide universal health care coverage; and I will offer the perspective that the other industrial countries have made it work with good results. After all, they all spend less on health care per capita than the United States and they all have health care systems that are rated much higher than ours in terms of almost every health statistics But Obamacare (and the debate around Obamacare), regardless of your politics, still misses the mark. It’s a lot of hot air, lifting a balloon that carries a partial solution, not the real solution.
My opinion? On cafeteria food and Obamacare, both parties are looking at the wrong numbers. Total calories and total coverage? Shrinking total calories is not a bad idea; and increasing coverage is actually a good idea. But (again) think quality, not quantity. We want a cafeteria that promotes health; and we want a health care system that also promotes health. Decreasing the size of the balloon is not the answer; and increasing the size of the balloon is not the key answer. Now, I am not saying the size of the balloon is irrelevant. However, instead of arguing over the size of the balloon and cost of increased health care coverage, maybe we should be addressing what needs to be done to reduce our need for health care? Prevention. Prevention. Prevention.
How do we do that? Well, each Congress Representative could start by reading the prior blogs. If our country wants to reduce our health care cost (which we all know needs to be done), how about improving our food supply and thereby improving our health? How about stopping all of that lobby-induced funding (subsidies) of the agricultural giants that are killing us? How about letting the Affordable Care program be enacted and focus on reducing the need for all of those expensive medical services? Don’t you think that action would lead to a greater level of success? Or a greater level of national health? Come on, from the school cafeteria to the retirement home, we all need to eat better – with fewer contaminants, fewer toxins, fewer GMOs, and fewer damaging chemicals. Is that too much to ask?
So, please, Congress, since you seem to have the collective intelligence of the High School Musical, “get your head in the game!” And let’s start scoring points that truly count and lead to a shared victory of better health for all Americans.