We Need Preventative Medicine

October 5th, 2009

choose healthOur nation is in the midst of a lively debate about public healthcare. Many aspects of our current system are being scrutinized and potential solutions are abundant. What seems to be missing from the debate, however, is a discussion about preventative medicine. Gradual behavior change, coupled with health education, would make a dramatic impact on the lives of many Americans while reducing overall expenses.

According to HealthReform.gov, the website set up by the U.S. government, The Obama administration hopes to create new comprehensive healthcare policies, and public insurance is one option being considered. Under the proposed reforms, citizens would be guaranteed their choice of doctors and would be covered despite preexisting conditions. Such insurance would make healthcare available to the country’s 50 million uninsured, which would take a heavy burden off of the American taxpayer. The nation spends approximately $2.5 trillion on health care each year, according to the New York Times.

Much of this spending is devoted to the treatment of preventable, chronic illnesses. It is estimated that 80% of our healthcare budget is devoted to diseases such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Last year, heart disease and strokes alone cost the nation $448 billion. The price, however, is more than fiscal. Heart disease and stroke account for over one-third of all American deaths. Mortality rates associated with preventable illnesses are only on the rise. According to a recent study, obesity is expected to become the leading cause of cancer in Western women within the next few years.

Putting debate about healthcare reform aside, it is undeniable that our nation needs to work towards reducing the effects and costs of preventable diseases. Lack of concern about preventative medicine, coupled with Western lifestyle choices, has led us down an unhealthy path. We must take action on public and personal levels if we hope to combat our nation’s health woes.

Individuals can alleviate and prevent chronic illnesses by making simple changes in their everyday lives. Beginning an exercise regime, giving up smoking or switching to a diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains can dramatically cut your risk for many of the illnesses our country faces today. Cutting back on the amount of meat in your diet also helps prevent disease and obesity. The average American consumes almost 62 grams of animal protein a day, well over the recommended limit set by the FDA. Meat products are full of cholesterol and saturated fat, which have grave impacts on our health.

Even a moderate reduction in how much meat you consume can improve your health. Take Meatless Monday, for example. By forgoing meat one day a week you’re reducing your saturated fat intake by 15%, thereby cutting your risk for preventable diseases with one simple action. For most of us Monday is the start of a new work week, making it the perfect time to plan positive behaviors. A health regime that begins on Monday has the power to last all week long.

Take action against preventable diseases this week by planning a Healthy Monday. Even small behavior changes can have dramatic effects. Try getting more exercise into your day with a Move It Monday or kick your nicotine habit with the help of Stay Quit Monday. Use Monday to plan positive changes in your community and country as well. Make healthy options available to every American by donating fresh food to a nerby food bank or by volunteering at your local co-op. Also, talk to your community and elected officials about the need for preventative health and education. Write your local congressman this week and voice your concerns about our nation’s health.