Saturday, October 22, 2011

Let's support health education and local farmers!

I'm an adjunct at a local community college. I haven't had health insurance since I was laid off from my full time job in 2008. Back then, I was an educator working with folks on welfare who didn't really want to get off in the first place. Our goal was to train them on how to get and keep a job, which is funny, because I rarely came across a client who actually shared that goal.

Ironically, I make too much money to qualify for healthcare assistance, but not enough to pay for even the basics of my own healthcare (like maybe a check up once a year). Meanwhile, my former clients keep getting free care at emergency rooms and neighborhood free clinics.

It's a good thing they can get care, though, because the crappy food they buy with their food stamps - mostly sugary and refined carbohydrates that are cheap and provide name-brand comfort - is sending many of them to the emergency room on a regular basis to be treated for hypertension, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems. My piddly wages, on the other hand, are spent not on doctors but on preventative measures - whole foods - in order to maintain my health and avoid costly medical bills and a life of chronic illness.

Don't you think there's something wrong with this?

Before, when I had health insurance, I weighed 420 pounds and was a ticking time bomb for many of the health issues mentioned above. But fortunately I read a book back then that was a wake up call. I learned from Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, that what I was doing to my body by maintaining a healthy diet. More importantly, I learned that by changing my diet I could reverse the damage I had already done.

What's my point? Instead of allowing politicians to fight a battle for more healthcare for poor people, we should be spending money on health education and supporting small farmers so they can provide good, whole foods at an affordable cost to local people. That's the only way to lighten the growing burden currently crushing our health system and robbing health care consumers who are able to pay for care.

Let's shift the conversation - we must do something about this crisis now, before more than 50 percent of our population is officially obese or otherwise chronically sick. If we do nothing, or continue on the path of building bigger hospitals to deal with more and more food related diseases, it will turn us into a third world country.

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