Archive for Politics and Food

Want Health Care Reform? Start with the Food System!

I’ve just about had it up to here with all the talk about health care reform. I’m tired of hearing that things are going to improve when I know darn well all these dictocrats have absolutely no intention of addressing the real issues at hand – which are prevention and food system fixes. To me, those are the only two things that will really bring about change in our broken health care world that is getting more and more infirm as time passes.

At the beginning of the Obama administration this past January, I had high hopes that this might actually be the season of real change in the health care system, as many promises were made that seemed solid. After all, things have just about hit rock bottom, right? Or could it get worse?

I spent a good portion of the year writing letters to state congresspersons and federal decision-makers about prevention and food system fixes being an integral component of health care change. Most of the responses I received were something of this nature:

Dear Friend:

Thank you for writing to me.  I appreciate hearing from you and value your input.

Each day, I am moved by the messages I receive from people across the country.  Far too many Americans are struggling–falling behind on mortgage payments, coping with illness, or losing a job without warning.  My Administration is working to address the serious challenges our Nation faces.  I am committed to taking immediate
steps that generate job creation and economic recovery, and I am determined to make investments that lay a new
foundation for real and lasting progress.

To build this new foundation, we need health care reform–this year–that reduces costs, protects health care choices, and assures quality, affordable care for all Americans.  I encourage you to visit www.HealthReform.gov to learn more about my commitment to enacting comprehensive health care reform in 2009.

I am also dedicated to building a clean energy economy that creates millions of jobs, helps us achieve energy independence, and reduces pollution as we tackle the effects of global warming.  Please visit www.Recovery.gov to read about the more than $60 billion in clean energy investments my Administration has made to jump-start our economy and build the jobs of tomorrow.

To prepare our children to thrive in the global economy, we must guarantee every child a complete and competitive education.  For information about my education reform agenda, please join me online at: www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/education.

At the same time, we have an obligation to rein in our budget deficit by cutting wasteful spending and ineffective programs.  We can do all this, and change the way business is done in Washington, by building the most open, transparent, and accountable government in our history.

While we repair our communities, we must also recognize the important contributions of our service men and women in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other nations.  Our military and their families have borne an enormous burden for their fellow citizens, serving with honor and succeeding beyond any expectation.  For those who have been injured or lost their lives in pursuit of our freedom, we owe them our undying gratitude.  I am committed to assisting our servicemembers, veterans, and their families and honoring our debts to them.

Information on jobs, health benefits, housing assistance, and other public resources for those in need can be found by calling 1-(800)-FEDINFO or by visiting: www.usa.gov.

The only way to solve the problems of our time is to involve all Americans in shaping the policies that affect our
lives.  I hope you continue to explore www.WhiteHouse.gov, which is regularly updated and more interactive than ever before.  Thank you again for writing.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

Not one sentence in this response even came close to addressing mine or anyone else’s concerns and points made about food system repair and prevention. I realize the President has a tremendous job and doesn’t have time for individual responses. But it’s absolutely unthinkable that no one with power or influence seems to be able to comprehend what needs to be done – especially a person who is so educated and informed as Mr. Obama.

It’s common knowledge that America spends more on health care than anyone else in the world, but finishes almost dead last (no pun intended) in life expectancy of nations with wealth. Clearly what we’ve been doing is not working…come on people, WAKE UP!

As a mother of a family with no health insurance,  I can say one thing – we don’t use conventional doctor services much anyway – even before my husband got laid off and we started our solar business in June. We practice prevention. We eat real, traditional foods, we avoid toxins in our diet, home, and personal products as much as possible. But what if we had an accident? As a family still trying to regain our footing after the loss of our primary income in May of this year and having just started a small business, we can’t afford health insurance right now. It’s pretty evident what would happen to us. But people who take care of themselves get sick less – it’s an irrefutable fact. So why should people who don’t burden the health care system be penalized when they really need help with unfathomable medical bills? Basic medical services shouldn’t bankrupt people.

I know people who believe that the health care system should stay the way it is. I respectfully disagree. And to those who say they want change and who are moving toward it, here’s a news flash: what’s proposed is just not going to solve the problem.

Throwing billions of dollars at Big Pharma is not going to make people healthier nor keep drug prices down for when people really need them. The pervasive overuse of drugs, as is the practice in our current health care system, keeps people sick and drives costs up with no end in sight. And that’s just a start – that’s not even mentioning what it does to our food system and farms.

But I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t really matter who’s in office – whether it’s a Democrat, Republican or Independent party candidate, that the overall mentality of the average politician is centered on supporting Big Business, Big Agribusiness, and Big Pharma – which certainly doesn’t involve doing what’s best for the health of the American people. A truly progressively-minded decision-maker who understands the issues and knows what needs to be done would stop all this silly pandering toward the big players and announce policy changes in the food system that will really make a difference.

When I say to people that the administration is doing nothing at all to address preventative coverage in insurance and educational measures, and repairing the food system, I get the usual blank look and sometimes they reply back in a monotone voice, “yeah.”  But having an intelligent conversation about this issue that really gets at the heart of the problem is pretty rare. This reaffirms to me that the average citizen is wholly uninformed and ignorant about health care and food. This is not a good thing!

Here is a great article published nearly a year ago on The Daily Green that sums up my feelings perfectly. It’s as true today as it was just before the Presidential Election in January of this year. To reform a health care system that is as badly damaged as our own, we have to start where the problems begin – with our food system and education about preventative lifestyles. No health care reform that centers on a more stepped up “food safety” program and increasing taxes to pay for health care and insurance premiums that don’t provide coverage for preventative care will ever improve the state of overall health of the average citizen in this country. Period.

Real Health Care Reform Starts with Our Food System

By Peter Berley, January 10, 2008

It appears that Americans have finally become fed up enough with the way things are to demand change, or have we?

Thus far, I haven’t heard a single candidate talk about the fundamental changes that must take place if we as a nation are serious about becoming strong and vibrant.

I haven’t heard “It’s the food system, stupid…”

The establishment of a new national health insurance policy, no matter how universal or complete, has little to do with a real change in national health. Nor will it go far in addressing our weak connection as a nation to the sources of our nourishment.

Insurance does not bring about real change in the ways in which we lead our lives. It does not address the root causes of our sickness. And it does little to change our dependence on others for our health.

To be fair, health insurance has the potential to go a long way towards the alleviation of symptomatic pain, short-term stabilization of life threatening diseases and emergency medicine. It is shameful that we as a nation have accepted for so long the status quo and allowed our leaders to remain puppets of drug companies.

Health insurance ultimately will never serve our greatest healthcare needs, nor address our deepest ignorance and fears. Every one of us must learn how to create healthy lives. How to take care of our own bodies hearts and minds.

None of the present crop of candidates is getting what real health care reform is all about. Perhaps because no one has explained it to them.

For instance, I found it strikingly odd that the sponsors of the debates in New Hampshire aired this past week were paid for in large part by the very drug companies that have a stranglehold on our health and whose greatest interest lies in profiting from our continued dependence on their products and belief in their message that we are incapable of controlling our own health destinies.

If I were Obama, Edwards, Clinton, Huckabee, or any other candidate representing change, here’s what I would propose:

Public schools would have food and health curriculums:

1. Cooking, bread baking and gardening.

2. Self care and home remedies.

3. Food studies: The study of traditional food-ways, agriculture, fishing, hunting and animal husbandry.

4. Food history

5. Food science

And, I would like to ask each candidate these questions:

1. What do they see is the connection between the health of our soil and the health of our population?

2. What do they eat at home?

3. What is in their medicine cabinet?

4. Have they spent time with a farmer, fisherman or rancher?

It seems to me that as citizens it is our responsibility to demand mandates for health education and transparent and safe food policy.

I couldn’t have said it any better.

Now, I want to hear from you about what you are doing to help those around you understand the problems we are facing with health care reform, and what reactions are you getting from them. Do you find that people are receptive to the idea of real prevention and food system fixes as main components of health care reform?

Would you like to read more about related topics?

Is Reactive Medicine Cheaper than Preventation?
Big Corporations and Big Pharma – Dictating What’s Acceptable to Eat
Being a Food Activist in a World Driven by Tradition, Control, & Profit
This article is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and read the other real food posts listed there.

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Big Corporations and Big Pharma – Dictating What’s Acceptable to Eat

Has anyone noticed how the law is on the side of agribusiness, big pharma, and profit, but fails to protect the interests of small farmers/food producers, or whole foods? These corporations have spent billions of dollars making sure entities such as the Food Pyramid tell consumers to purchase and eat the most processed and chemically-filled foods available. Just look at which foods are on the top – grains. The most pervasive grains in our food supply are processed, genetically-engineered, and full of chemicals. If anyone eats that much processed grain foods per day, health problems are sure to follow. Not enough supporting information in mainstream sectors exists to drive home the fact that these food-like substances are one of the primary causes of degenerative disease.

On the Food Pyramid, fruits and vegetables are ranked below grains with meats, fish, eggs, and dairy near the bottom, just above fats and sweets. What about meat and eggs – are they naturally raised or industrially-produced? Corporations have also successfully convinced the entire health industry – scientists & researchers, medical doctors, college professors, teachers, dietitians, personal trainers, health coaches, and fitness clubs – to teach this rhetoric of eating processed foods to patients, clients, students, and consumers.

Just ask the authors of Our Stolen Future, written by Theo Colburn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers, who have conducted extensive research into the fact that manufacturers frequently withhold information about the ingredients contained in their products. Instead of disclosure, companies declare their contents are proprietary ingredients or trade secrets. And they are supported by laws and regulatory upholdings which continue to allow them to sell whatever product they develop to the public.  The government is oblivious to and disregarding of repeated scientific studies and research revealing that these substances are questionable at best and proven to be carcinogenic to human health.

Corporations have made it politically incorrect and too expensive to eat real food not only because of profits at stake, but because the demand for fake food exceeds the public’s level of awareness about it. One reason real food is too expensive to purchase for many people is because big corporations sell products at lower cost and tout their health benefits – which are swallowed hook, line and sinker by consumers – driving the cost of real food up as the demand for industrial food continues to skyrocket. Agribusiness and bloated corporations work in tandem with Big Pharma – you eat the food you are told is good for you from the corporations, and then when your immune system becomes weakened from consuming the food and you become sick, you are shuffled over to the doctor’s office where Big Pharma takes over – emptying out your bank account a second time as you fork over your hard-earned money to pay for drugs that won’t make your health problems go away. Then you go home and eat industrial, processed food for dinner. Repeat.

It is certainly true that technologies such as heart bypass procedures, pacemakers, kidney dialysis devices, respirators, and other developments have played an undeniable role in extending life. But on the other end of that realm of technology, drug companies have been more than happy to take credit for the fact that the average human life span has extended beyond anything in recorded history. Anthony Cortese, a former U.S. public health service official, confirms otherwise. “Ninety percent of the reduction in the death rate occurred before the introduction of antibiotics or vaccines.” He goes on to explain that longer life spans were actually attributed to improvements in food, water, and sanitation of milk, a reduction in physical crowding, the inception of central heating, plumbing, and refrigeration, and the migration from toxic coal and wood burning to lower-toxicity natural gas and oil. But it certainly cannot be attributed to any success for health on behalf of the drugs company’s doing; it’s all about the almighty dollar.

As discussed in Randall Fitzgerald’s The Hundred Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health, “The United States spends more than twice as much on health care than any other industrialized nation in the world- $6,100 per year for every man, woman, and child. Fifteen percent of the economy is now devoted to medical care, up from 10 percent in 1987. Yet, the United States ranks forty-sixth in life expectancy and forty-second in infant mortality among the nations of the world.”

This attitude of promoting the consumption of processed foods filters down through many levels. A good example of this system at work is the school lunch program. Food for children is offered at a lower cost per meal than you would be able to find almost anywhere else – making real, local, and organic foods unappealing due to their cost, not to mention the fact that big corporations pay for research telling us that organic food is no better for us nutritionally than the conventionally-produced variety.

Another example is health clubs pushing physical fitness while their food philosophy dictates eating low-fat foods and selling unhealthy snacks and meals to members. The health club where I work recently decided to cut out the weekly healthy snack class I taught because the local food bank is going to bring in daily free lunches and snacks. And what do you suppose you’ll find in these meals and snacks? “Popcorn chicken”, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese sticks and bagels, potato or tortilla chips, and low-fat or skim hormone-filled chocolate milk. They are offering vegetables two to three times per week, and some fruit. But the rest is completely processed and devoid of nutrition. But because it’s free, the health club has decided to take it over the raw, unprocessed, organic food I provided to the children each week. For a list of ingredients in popcorn chicken, read this article about school lunches.

My husband commented that it’s a liability for the health club to allow real food to be served because the law says processed food is fine to consume (i.e., The Food Pyramid), but it’s “unlawful” to promote or serve organic, real, whole foods because there is not enough valid “research” backing up claims to its superiority and health benefits. This seems impossible to believe, but it is unfortunately true.

I spent nearly two years trying to convince my employer that a nutritionally-based program should be designed for their members. What I asked for was education and awareness about organic, whole, and traditional foods and their impact on health. What I heard from the management was that the concepts I requested for inclusion were not backed up by research nor substantiated by government or university studies.

Even when I produced valid research, there was no response or acknowledgment. It is maddening to have an entity such as a non-profit organization purporting to stand for health and wellness ignore data such as this – especially when those in authority claim to be educated and informed.

The fact remains the food allowed to be served by the club to the members is clearly below standards for good health and is a main culprit for the persistence of health problems – both the food donated by the foodbank and that which is served in the health club snack bar on a daily basis. In order to “save money” on real foods to serve as snacks for their members to eat (i.e., the foods I was serving once a week), they have opted to accept free food which is synthetic and full of chemicals. It should be noted that the children LOVED the food I served, and the parents frequently thanked me for serving healthy snacks and commented on how much they liked the nutrition activity. There was never a complaint or problem the entire time I served these weekly snacks for over 10 months.

The reality is, if you want to be able to eat real, organic foods, you can expect to receive attitude, opposition, and great difficulty obtaining it – no matter where you find yourself. The important questions are: why have we deemed it acceptable to put profit in front of health, and why has it become unacceptable to sell, serve, and eat real food? Have you encountered issues when trying to eat the way you want, or been in a situation where you wanted to have healthy food at some type of function or event and were thwarted in some fashion?

Update! Read this great article at the Journal of Natural Food and Healing –Big Pharma Wants to Make You Sicker

I’d love to hear your comments, stories, and frustrations about these situations, and what you might have done to remedy the problem.

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ACTION NOW! An Open Letter to the President & Other Decision Makers Regarding Preventative Health Care

Dear Mr. President and members of Congress,

Most people know the health care system in our country is beyond broke. Even now that the new administration is in place, I’m seeing very little being done to remedy the desperately dire health care conditions in this country. I realize a major system change takes time.

I know things don’t happen overnight. What I’m most frustrated by is the fact that I’ve heard various commentators, political figures, and decision-makers throw the word “prevention” around like it is the latest buzz word of the day and give the subject much lip service…but still nothing substantial is being done. It’s time for these individuals to put their money where their mouths are! And, it’s time for citizens to stop being passive and take action. I say let our voices be heard! Advocacy is important in any critical movement, and this is no exception.

Under the current health care system, citizens have little to no choice about their treatment options. Not much  emphasis, education, nor insurance coverage is allowed for preventative health care. I stress this with great importance: until we gear our health care system toward prevention and move away from what I refer to as reactive care, disease numbers and conditions will continue to increase. This of course means health care costs will also go up.

I want to see alternatives in health offered for coverage by insurance companies – not just drugs and surgery, which I believe have played a major role in causing the ills of people in our nation. Alternatives would include but not be limited to chiropractic, naturopathic, homeopathic, osteopathic, massage, acupuncture, reflexology, hypnotherapy, nutritional therapy, exercise physiological services, and colon hydro therapy.

Almost never do any members of my family see allopathic physicians. When we have health concerns, we see one of the above-mentioned practitioners, and none of these services are covered under our insurance plans except chiropractic – and the coverage is limited. These health care expenses are not affordable, and no one is helping to offset the cost of these goods and services. But I’d still rather spend my money on preventative care that works than wait until something is wrong and then treat it otherwise. It’s a choice I’ve made to ensure better health and provide a better future for my family. This choice I have made because I spent years seeing doctors that neither listened to my problems, nor gave me solutions, nor had any way of dealing with the issues at hand except with drugs and surgery. I’ve gone down that path before, and I say with certainty that I won’t go down it again. Reactive medicine only made my problems worse, whereas preventative and natural care made me well again. Which choice would you make?

We need more advocacy and education on the subject of alternative and preventative health care and nutrition. Too much of our health care system emphasizes use of drugs and surgery for treatment of health care issues after the fact and sometimes when it is too late to save a life. If our system included programs and educational efforts to help teach people about and encourage them to engage in preventative health measures, we would see a noticeable decline in disease and illness. We desperately need a strong movement in advocacy of elimination of processed foods from our primary diets in order to combat disease and promote well-being. Again, very little emphasis is placed on this important component of a health care system that actually works.

Too many people have health care issues they need to take care of – today, yesterday, a month ago, or a year ago – but are crippled by the cost of treatment, and therefore are forced to do nothing.  As unemployment numbers continue to climb, more and more people are losing medical coverage from losing their jobs and being deprived of the income they need in order to cover medical costs and bills in the first place. The unemployment rate has been hovering just under 10 percent – and that’s just what’s been reported by the Labor Department. If this number goes up, 13 million Americans will have lost their employer health insurance since 2007.

Many people could greatly benefit from having the option and ability to participate in alternative and preventative care, to keep their medical conditions from becoming worse. But under the status quo, that is simply impossible. This type of opportunity would not only prevent needless suffering and misery, but would save people thousands and thousands of dollars in future health care problems. We all know the longer we wait to take care of a health issue, the more acute and more expensive it becomes.

We need more than just a dependable plan – we need groups willing to promote and maintain a reliable system that provides a deliverable end result of better health care and ultimately, health for everyone. This system would include educational materials, health care events and consultations with knowledgeable providers, and willingness to use food as medicine as well as herbs and natural treatments for health issues.

If good, reliable coverage was available to the average citizen, health care problems will be addressed before conditions become a serious problem, and in some cases, in plenty of time to eliminate a fatal illness from taking hold and ending someone’s life – such as cancer or diabetes – even heart disease. Coverage for every man, woman, and child should be available, and it should accommodate for the type of treatment specific to the individual’s wants and needs.

As it stands, those insured have no choice but to accept coverage from bloated insurance companies who make money hand-over-fist while at the same time deny pre-existing conditions, refuse necessary treatments, and  increase premiums, co-pays , deductibles and various out-of-pockets costs on an annual basis. These same systems also favor reactive treatments over preventative ones.  How can any of us survive in such a system? We need to stop accepting expensive, reactive care from health care providers who fail to understand the holistic component that is so integral to the improvement of our health as a nation. We must demand that the methods and ways which have been in place for so many years and have brought ill results be altered and geared toward prevention, nutrition, and proactive measures.

Finally, we must demand that emphasis be placed on implementing a truly sustainable health and food system. To start, we would need a program which would allow for all the accountable players in the equation from the agricultural sector to be acknowledged, from removal of components that are causing added health issues and health safety (i.e., factory farms, genetically modified organisms, irradiation, pesticides and other toxins), to follow-through and definitive action from the newly formed Food Safety Working Group.

This, I ask as a hard-working American citizen, taxpayer, mother, and wife for myself, my family, and for all residents of our great nation.

Sincerely,

-Raine J.E. Saunders

Boise, Idaho

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To make your concerns known to the current decision-makers, visit Prescription for Change.

This post is listed on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays page as part of their carnival of food posts. Visit Food Renegade and take a look at the other good blogs and sites listed there.

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