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Health Care and Healthy Eating

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health.  We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice.  We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found.   Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body.  If you have a health problem, see your own physician.


Health Care and Healthy Eating

By Robert S. Ellwood on The Peaceable Table

In The Peaceable Table we feel called to focus primarily on compassion for and celebration of our much-abused animal cousins. But "all animals are equal;" our hearts care no less for the welfare of our human sisters and brothers. The horrendous practices of factory farming, transportation, and rapid mass killing have not only subjected billions of our innocent cousins to hell on earth: by making animal products cheaper, more perilous, and more abundant than ever before, they have subjected ever-increasing myriads of human beings to crippling and catastrophic illness. This situation in turn greatly increases the scale of animal experimentation in the search for new pharmaceuticals for an ever-expanding market; and it has put huge pressure on human health care systems.

In the United States, the hot political topic over the summer of 2009 has been reforming our malfunctioning system of health care, and paying for it. Congress is tied up in knots over the issue. A great many people acknowledge that something is badly wrong. To begins with, the U.S. leads the world in expenditures for health. Nearly 16% of national and personal income goes directly or indirectly into medical costs, including insurance, the Medicare portion of Social Security, co-payments, medications, and so on and on, compared to 11.6% in Switzerland, the next-highest nation; 8% in Britain; just 3% in Canada. Yet the United States ranks only seventeenth in the world in health statistics, and despite the vast sums being spent, far too many citizens are uninsured or only precariously insured.

With so much money -- one-sixth of all the dollars in the country -- at stake, it is no surprise that powerful and well-financed interests are colliding around the health, or lack thereof, of the US-American citizen. These include insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, physicians and other medical professionals, hospitals, employers, government agencies, and of course the political parties. One can only hope for a solution a little better than another something-for-everyone-nothing-really-resolved compromise to come out of such a battle of well-matched behemoths in the short term. This is not the place to deal with the strictly political and economic aspects of the mess. It is, however, appropriate for The Peaceable Table to go behind the scenes to examine the deep background of our Republic's health crisis.

To do this, let's first ask two seldom-asked basic questions: first, Why do so many need such intensive health care anyway? and second, why does it cost so much? The answer to both, in our view, lies in the relation between lifestyle (especially eating and drinking) and health, and no less in the medical emphasis on crisis intervention rather than prevention.

A front-page headline in USA Today, the nation's largest circulating newspaper, for July 28 read, "Obesity is a key link to soaring health tab." It said that obesity, a widely-recognized epidemic, now accounts for nearly 10% of health costs -- up from 6.8% in 1998 -- and so makes for a sizable part of that 16% of national income going to sickness.

Interestingly, an article in The Chicago Tribune on the same day pointed to the matter of obese physicians, who do not practice what they presumably know they ought to preach -- though the article did acknowledge that many patients find something comforting in a comfortably portly caregiver. (We might add, however, that an obese physician implicitly gives the client/patient permission to keep eating badly.)

If one go on to consider the further medical costs of problems fundamentally created by lifestyle choices, such as major cancers and coronary heart disease mostly caused by eating animal products and high-fat refined foods instead of whole plant foods, or the well-known likely paybacks of heavy alcohol and tobacco use and unmanaged stress, I am sure we could explain much the 16% of national income. We could envision that grossly obese figure slimmed down to a manageable percentile if everyone (or even most of us) lived and ate wisely and compassionately.

Then comes the observation that medical practice by and large is oriented toward complicated, and very expensive, intervention when the results of lifestyle choices finally threaten well-being or life itself: bypass surgery; pharmaceutical cocktails to control blood pressure; radiation, chemo, or surgical attacks on cancer (also increasingly recognized to be an uninvited guest at the modern table, a sickly fruit of pollution, sedentary ways, and bad diet); and the like. These dramatic procedures of course highlight the doctor's skill, and can sometimes produce good outcomes. Yet, though they undoubtedly add several points to the 16%, much of the time--perhaps most--they are not inherently necessary. We need instead to emphasize prevention, which a change to a responsible insurance program would motivate.

We are not, of course, denying the need of some highly professional medical care. In an imperfect world, there will always be congenital defects, accidents, virtually unavoidable infections and infectious diseases, and much else requiring such care, and it ought to be equally available to all. But that goal would be much more easily reached if the inordinate influence of big-money interest in food production and in health (or rather in sickness) were proportionately lessened. That would take place if the vast sway of "elective" illnesses were greatly reduced by the policies of eating and living consistently advocated by The Peaceable Table and similar voices.

Let your own voice be heard.

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