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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/21/09


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Author 20661
Message Mark Overt Skilbred



Our efforts toward improving our national healthcare system are often misguided - focusing on financial solutions rather than concentrating on the improvement of our diets and our exercise programs, we have essentially placed the cart before the horse, and then are perplexed and amazed when the horse refuses to budge, or worse yet, responds by pushing the cart into the ditch. If the object in healthcare is to provide adequate coverage for our citizenry, while keeping costs at a reasonable level, our focus must be toward the development of newer/older dietary and exercise programs which can holistically be improved, modified and sustained for our lifetimes. Attempting financial solutions for what are essentially health-based problems only encourages unnecessary bickering, inaction and dysfunction within a system already burdened with inconsistencies.

Proper health care seeks to promote healthier lifestyles for people of all ages because the quality of our lives can be drastically improved and lengthened when we live according to principles which enhance our ability to resist disease and increase our vitality. A proactive approach that builds a proper foundation through a healthy diet and regular exercise program has been shown to provide the best health results and avoid premature aging and disease. It is in the interest of individuals, healthcare providers, insurers, taxpayers and governments to promote our physical welfare, because in doing this we greatly improve our health, reduce costs, and prolong the length and quality of our lives. Throughout the 20th Century, healthcare workers increased our ability to resist disease with scientific breakthroughs which greatly reduced the effects of epidemics and helped to prevent their occurrence, yet our lifestyles during this same period tended to become much more leisurely and undisciplined. We seem to have improved our health in some key areas, only to fall short in other ways. Obesity and diabetes have increased to levels of epidemic proportion and seem especially to afflict wealthier nations. Careers in the military and law enforcement which generally require strict physical fitness standards set good examples for the rest of society, which we would do well to emulate, but have failed to replicate. Exercise programs which are well-begun during school years, unfortunately often fall victim to leisure and entertainment pursuits which have negligible long-term benefits in sustaining our health. The cost of maintaining physical conditioning is relatively inexpensive and the outlay for a healthy diet is often less costly than for unhealthy diets which lead to even more costly healthcare later on.

What appears to be lacking is the establishment of good discipline in the formative years, followed by strict dietary guidelines and physical exercise standards throughout the educational process and continuing all the way through life. Those habits of diet and exercise which are established in early life often set the stage for our success or failure during the course of our lives. Maintaining good habits is far easier than attempting to regain a healthy lifestyle which has been forgotten or allowed to lapse. What roles can be undertaken by the government, businesses and the family which would encourage us to persevere in our efforts to achieve and maintain healthy lifestyles? Perhaps by increasing the quality, variety and duration of our diet and exercise programs, and by requiring the achievement and verification of high standards of excellence in our homes, schools, businesses, and workplaces, which can be established and maintained throughout life, we can accomplish an increase in overall health and productivity, reduce healthcare expense and improve quality of life as well as lifespan. Rather than focusing on creative financial solutions for this healthcare crisis, we should concentrate our attention on the prevention of disease and its costly treatment by proactively pursuing a unified plan of diet and exercise improvement. It has been shown that even at an advanced age, improvements in diet and exercise can have a profound impact on overall health and longevity. Instead of throwing money at the problem, we should concentrate our efforts on creative ways to encourage all age-groups to improve their quality of diet and exercise, thereby improving our health and reducing our expense. Some would argue that there are perpetually those diseases and conditions which resist our best efforts to find a solution and that inevitably there is a financial burden which must be passed-along to the taxpayers-essentially, the healthy paying for the unhealthy and the younger paying for the older. Admittedly, this is true, but virtually everyone's health can be greatly improved through the development of healthier lifestyles. Instead of conducting studies based on current and projected costs of healthcare based on inherently flawed information which is outdated before the ink dries, our research efforts should concentrate on the collaborative examination of various methods of improving diet, exercise and wellness programs. The unavoidable costs resulting from diseases which have no cure are diminutive when compared with costs for diseases which have preventable causes. Succumbing to preventable diseases prematurely and for no other reasons than ignorance and poor discipline, in a wealthy and educated society is not only bad stewardship of our national health resource, but a waste of taxpayer dollars as well. Sometimes it takes a crisis to make us realize that another type of solution will provide better long term results. Perhaps this economic depression will force us to take healthcare action in a direction that will ultimately change the way we approach the prevention and treatment of disease.

Some will say that people are just too lazy to implement a prevention plan and that it is too late for some to see any benefit from a formalized health program. I have never met a healthcare professional who will say it is too late to begin the improvement of our diet and to exercise. Even those in their "declining years" are helped greatly by these improvements. There is still inertia that must be overcome, primarily by those who haven't yet experienced the benefits of these improvements in their own lives. We must not settle for easy transitional changes that allow hard-core skeptics to ignore the benefits experienced by those who participate. Although we can immediately improve the health of our children, both now while they are still in school and later when they work in businesses which provide incentives for maintaining healthy standards throughout their careers by assisting in the improvement of their diet and exercise habits, we must offer further incentives for the self-employed and retirees who maintain healthy lifestyles. By actively encouraging citizens to participate in wellness programs by providing inducements which motivate a positive response, we can improve the health of the entire nation. In so doing, our healthcare costs will be drastically reduced, allowing further incentives and available funding for still more improvements.

I have been greatly encouraged by the success of advertising campaigns which discourage smoking. Who would have envisioned that smoking could be so drastically reduced across all segments of society through the implementation of this program? Funding for these health-based programs can be funded by those who reap the benefits of good health, as well as by those who are penalized by non-compliance.

There will always be those who argue that their freedoms include the right to choose an unhealthy lifestyle. Often they seek to blame others for their poor choices and still more often demand that the rest of us pay to fix the diseases which result from these same choices. These same people are not as willing to pay the individual costs of their so-called freedom-to-choose an unhealthy lifestyle. These individuals will be more likely to comply with healthy lifestyle choices when they realize that unhealthy lifestyle choices carry financial penalties which they must bear. Perhaps those protesting loudest anticipate that the growing majority are no longer willing to absorb the increased costs associated with the treatment of unhealthy lifestyle diseases. When various healthcare warnings are frequently ignored and deliberately disregarded, there must be consequences which affect the individual financially and deter further non-compliance.

Employer-based programs which reward employees for maintaining and improving overall fitness markers and that penalize non-compliant workers by deducting larger portions for healthcare benefits can influence large segments of the population to take supervision of their health. Those who are self-employed and retired can qualify for programs which similarly reward diligence with low rates. Those who are non-compliant and can't be bothered with maintaining and improving their health, should face steeper rates and coverage limitations. Those who are truly victims of misfortune and diseases beyond their control will be eligible for the appropriate benefits which government services provide.

There is no substitute for health which is sustained by proper diet, exercise and rest. Those who make a habit of practices that improve and maintain healthy lifestyles over the generations will reap physical and financial rewards for themselves and their families which raise the bar on acceptable healthcare standards. We should be satisfied with no less than our best proactive efforts to increase the health-portion of our standard of living quotient. Improving our standard of national health will result in greater financial ability to fund research and prevent disease for our nation and the world.

Mark Overt Skilbred


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I am a writer/blogger who is interested in diplomatic solutions more than all other options, but who recognizes that proper governance must enforce the rule-of-law, especially when its neglect will result in civil war and anarchy. That being said, (more...)
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