Yesterday we chatted about smoking…today let’s focus on the toughie…obesity.
Weight, Diet and Exercise: Definitely a harder issue to tackle especially in the USA where overeating and sedentary jobs are the norm…and it all comes with some intense emotional baggage. There is not much denying that eating well and exercising are probably two of the most important things YOU can do to ward off literally thousands of health issues…including most of the biggies. Considering that most medical issues involve some sort of plastic, transportation, time, energy, etc. etc., it can be assumed that the less medical intervention you need the greener it is…and the less taxing it is on a ballooning health care system. So…do you consider keeping yourself in healthy shape a part of your green ethic? And if keeping one’s self in good health is both an economic and environmental issue for the public, should it become a government issue? Should we be fighting the epidemic of obesity the same as we have been fighting smoking?
Here is some of what is being done and proposed.
Research and Knowledge: Obesity costs the US health care system close to an estimated 100,000 billion dollars a year, 1/2 being paid by Medicare…and therefore, your taxes. The list of preventable diseases associated with obesity, 20% more than your ideal body weight, is staggering. Yet…despite increased knowledge and awareness we continue to get fatter as a nation. In NYC, our mayor has taken a step further than just public awareness about the risks of obesity… he is helping to show how it is happening. Chain restaurants in NYC have to list calorie content of all its foods. (Seriously eye-opening for all those Starbucks Latte freaks!) Time will tell if the added info has an impact.
Tax: Tax on junk food. There have been several proposals to tax junk food, especially fast food and sugar laden drinks. The $ raised from these taxes would go to programs geared towards fighting obesity…like the projects listed below.
Public Policy: Some school districts have revamped their lunch menus and pulled unhealthy vending machines from their halls and cafeterias.
Green markets are being sponsored and brought into the Bronx to increase healthy food consumption. Again…time will tell if these things will have a major impact.
The idea of charging higher health premiums to the obese, who now make about a shocking 1/3 of the adult population, has been tossed about too. I am more in favor of the reward system. Why can’t we write off gym memberships if we use them? Or free aerobic classes? Can you imagine how many common human ailments would be curtailed if we simply had better preventative care? Why not offer reduced rates to patients who follow doctor prescribed diets and exercise regimes to get their diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, hypertension, etc. under control?
What do you think? Do you consider how you treat your body a part of how you treat the earth? Is it a green issue? How far should the government be allowed to go even if it is a matter of public finance and health before it becomes too much Big Brotherism? Do you consider your health simply as a personal matter or do you see it as a part of a larger system? And again, very important, do calories in fact count if they come off of your kid’s plate?
[Disclaimer Prince Style: I was dieting when I wrote this so forgive me if it goes astray.]