In 2010, the United States Congress and President Obama passed the Affordable Healthcare Act. The main objectives of this act are to increase the amount of Americans with health insurance, increase preventative screening and reduce the overall cost of health care in the long run.
The law provides multiple positive aspects, but it fails to see the big picture.
It doesn’t really matter if every American has health insurance if the majority of Americans are chronically ill or in need of treatment. Health care costs will continue to rise drastically.
Active health promotion by individuals is the only way to reduce health care spending and improve health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) needs to be reformed to help promote healthy eating choices.
The three greatest health risk factors in the U.S. are tobacco use, alcohol and substance abuse and poor nutrition. Any one or combinations of these three, place an individual at great risk for poor health and disease.
For example, according to CBS News, around 21 percent of Americans smoke cigarettes. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, eight percent abuse alcohol and according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent are considered obese.
Cardiovascular disease or strokes, which are linked to all three risk factors, cost the U.S. around $431 billion each year, according to the American Heart Association. Smoking-related illness costs around $155 billion per year to Americans, according to Charles K. Bens and obesity costs were around $75 billion per year. These three preventable risk factors are one third of the total health care expenses in the United States.
Increased education and awareness have greatly decreased the amount of people abusing tobacco and alcohol over the last 60 years. It is still important to continue supporting smoking cessation and alcohol moderation, but the increase in obesity since the 1980s has become America’s next greatest problem.
A proper diet has the most direct impact on our overall health. We all must eat multiple times and consume around 2,000 calories per day. Science is starting to prove that not all calories are the same.
Different foods actually cause our genes to act in different ways. Research-based studies are now recommending that humans eat more plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Some of the benefits are reduced appetite, more energy, lower cholesterol levels and lower blood sugar levels. The examples of the positive effects are quite profound.
Many Americans are aware of this information, but still choose to eat less healthy foods due to the cost. Many of the cheapest foods at restaurants and the grocery store are processed foods with little nutritional value. This is where the USDA is to blame and where it can redeem itself.
The USDA subsidizes farmers of certain crops and animals. Many of the crops that are subsidized are negatively affecting our health as American consumers. Some of the largest subsidies go to corn, soybeans and dairy producers. Corn is now used in thousands of different food products. Corn is converted into high fructose corn syrup to replace sugar. Corn and soybeans are used to feed and fatten cattle.
No one in the USDA seems to care that corn has little nutritional value and is harsh on the soil. No one seems to care that Americans consume too much corn-based products, dairy and meat because the price is kept artificially low by USDA subsidies.
The USDA needs to change its policies on subsidizing crops and how farm animals are raised. The USDA needs to cut all funding of corn, soybean and dairy. This will cause the price of cattle, dairy and high fructose corn syrup to increase. Fast food, processed foods, soda and candy (just to name a few) will all become more expensive.
The increased price will make these products less attractive and convenient for many Americans. The USDA can encourage healthy eating by transferring the current subsidies to healthier foods only and making a wide-variety of fruits, vegetables and whole-grains cheaper.
Not all diseases are preventable, but many that our country faces today are. Prevention is vital for the overall health of an individual, and personal health and the cost of health care is directly related.
The only way to decrease the cost of health care is to actively promote your own healthy lifestyle.
Preventing cardiovascular disease is much cheaper than using medications or surgery to improve health. The choice is yours.