I was listening to Weekday (on NPR in Seattle) this morning - the show was about healthcare, obesity and economic status. In Seattle for example, there are six times (5% vs. 30%) more obese people in the poorer neighborhoods than wealthy ones! Even if this number is slightly off, there's no arguing this correlation.
According to the guests on PBS, if you have less money, you have less to spend on food; fatty foods are cheaper and more plentiful than non-fatty foods, and if you only have a few dollars, surely you're not going to want to waste it on boring flavors (like raw vegetables and whole wheat bread), you're going to want tasty food that fills you up.
This is related to something called the Lipstick Effect, which was first documented during the Great Depression, where people who had very little disposable income still bought small luxuries as a treat during tough times (mood management if you will). Some people might buy junk food, others cosmetics, yet others see a movie, and even others will go to a tanning saloon.
So our worthy (and wealthy) legislators who have their own healthcare, gym, and lobbyist-funded condos in the sun have decided that it's appropriate to "help" the poor fat people in America by taxing soft drinks and tanning saloons to help pay for the new healthcare bill that still ignores between 18 (House) and 23 (Senate) million of the poorest Americans.
Why? Like students, poor people don't fund lobbyists to fight on their behalf. They are victims of the false assumption that society's job is to protect the weak and defenseless.
Neither healthcare bill considers the idea that increasing the focus on healthier living in public schools could dramatically lower healthcare costs. There is nothing in these bills that requires standardized tests to include knowledge about personal healthcare and fitness; there is nothing in these bills that mandates the quality of food that must be served in schools, or that students must exercise every day while in public school; or anything else that could create behavior that helps the next generation actually be more healthy.
If I had been in Congress, rather than hold this bill hostage to get the pork that ensured my reelection, I would have traded my vote for a bill that prioritized healthier Americans vs. assuaging any lobbyist. I would have demanded:
- Public schools - curriculum on healthcare and fitness, and phys-ed in all 13 years (K-12), standardized tests must include literacy, numeracy and personal healthcare and fitness (including sex education), only healthy food in the schools (no pop, candy, junk food, etc.).
- Doctors and hospitals/clinics get paid based on the health of their constituency - not by procedure or visit; i.e. a hospital gets paid based on the healthiness of the entire community it serves; doctors get paid based on the aggregate health of their entire patient load (*** doctors can not choose to only serve certain (healthier) patients).
- Government + insurance companies must create a pool of funds available to any doctor or hospital to be used to provide basic healthcare services (per #2) to uninsured patients.
There is a direct correlation between level of education and economic status; there is a direct correlation between economic status and fitness; there is a direct correlation between fitness and healthcare cost. There is also a direct correlation between the way doctors and hospitals get paid and the type of work they do. These facts are not disputed.
If the White House and Congress' goal is a healthier nation, the path forward is incredibly obvious - only a fathead would see it otherwise.