Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mencken Meets Health Reform

H.L. Mencken famously wrote: "For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong." It's still true. A recent case in point: an item on Insureblog that expressed exasperation that more people aren’t practicing wellness.

“...wellness and health care include what we can do for ourselves, to keep ourselves . . . healthy,” the author posits. “We can exercise (free). We can get adequate sleep (free). We can steer clear of substance abuse of all kinds (free). We can keep a reasonable diet (free). We can always wash our hands (free). We can hold it down to 85 on the Interstate (free). We can stop smoking or never start (better than free). To a great extent we already have free health care in the U.S.

“Why, I wonder, aren’t more people taking advantage of free health care? Free is affordable. What's the problem?”

Gosh, where do we start? Let’s just take them one-by-one.

  • It’s not so easy to exercise in a high-crime neighborhood where there’s no safe, convenient place to be physically active. And when there are no sidewalks in a neighborhood, more people will drive instead of walk and fewer kids can safely walk to school.
  • Adequate sleep can be hampered by inadequately regulated neighborhood noise, or by chronic diseases that are increasing in incidence across the country and which more people cannot afford to have treated.
  • A reasonable diet isn’t so easy in a neighborhood where there’s a fast food restaurant on every corner but purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables requires a one-hour bus ride.
  • We can always wash our hands only when facilities to do so are easily accessible.
  • Where enforcement isn’t present, some people simply aren’t going to “hold it to 85 on the interstate,” whether I choose to do so or not.
  • Most people have to try numerous times before they successfully quit smoking. But many of them can’t afford or aren’t aware of the drugs, patches and other tools that could help them succeed, or they aren’t covered by their health insurance. And stopping smoking isn’t so easy when the tobacco industry is allowed to manipulate the nicotine content in their products to make them even more addictive. Even if they succeed, they are often subjected to second-hand smoke from other smokers. Meanwhile, keeping people from starting smoking is made more difficult when tobacco companies can engage in sophisticated marketing efforts targeting our most vulnerable populations.
A healthy lifestyle does indeed require personal responsibility. But a community has a responsibility to provide an environment that doesn’t make doing the right thing more difficult or more expensive.

1 Comment:

  1. smoking said...
    Among many issues that have contributed to deteriorating the earth’s environment, smoking has remained a major point of concern. Smoking is a source of pollution, and generations after generations, we have been ignoring the health hazards of the excessive use of tobacco in the form of smoking.

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