I’m not big on needles, drugs or other medical treatments. I’m skeptical
about both preventive and curative activities that bring people into the
medical system. These views are not informed by any religious dogma (e.g.,
Christian Science proscriptions against medical care in favor of transcendental
prayer). I’m all in favor of medical attention when warranted. For instance, I
don’t hesitate to present my body to a qualified medic for periodic skin checks
and pre-cancer treatments (which I require regularly), for occasional
immunizations and of course for treatment if injured riding a bike or
otherwise. You get the idea. I don’t like medical encounters; I don’t like the
medical system we have in America, either. I do what I can to minimize the need
for such attention. But, if indicated, I seek such services; I’ll even take a
drug if helpful for reducing inflammation or whatever.
But, not everyone thinks this way or enjoys the luxury of such options.
We could all use an awareness inoculation against judging people for their irrational choices. Not everyone needs such an inoculation, but many of us do, now and then. The inoculation is not administered by a needle, but by reminders that human attitudes and habits are not shaped by conscious choices arrived at by rational people who enjoyed alternatives.
There is evidence from a new CDC investigation that at least a quarter of all cases of heart disease and stroke deaths in the U.S. are preventable. This amounts to 200,000 unnecessary deaths for two conditions - and I’m convinced this is a very low estimate. With a vegan diet, exercise regimen and a REAL wellness philosophy, most if not nearly all deaths from these and other top ten mortality causes could be prevented. But these three choices don’t exist for a significant segment of the population.
The CDC study, widely reported, also revealed other facts that should make everyone as cautious as I am about expecting or hoping for a widespread embrace, ever, of REAL wellness principles. (A $2 trillion plus medical system would not exist if people lived wisely.)
Consider a few elemental facts.
The preventable death rate is twice as great for African-Americans, men and for residents of Southern states. Lifestyle choices are the obvious variable in high death rates. Of course awful attitudinal and habit choices lead to bad health outcomes. However, these choices are not made under conditions of so-called “free will.” There is not an even playing field. What matters most are adverse social and environmental conditions. Given such conditions, white women in the north - and others would suffer high preventable chronic disease-related death rates.
The CDC study correctly noted that “different realities ...
exist in different communities in this country...” that
account for the disparate lifestyles and thus preventable death rates.
Which essentially leads to this conclusion: REAL wellness lifestyles are great but vast segments of the population can’t live this way. Even if exposed to REAL wellness via education, they would have little or no chance to sustain initial good intentions.
Life is brutally unfair.
The report also referenced a study showing children in the lowest socio-economic zones of Cincinnati to be 88 times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma emergencies than children living in the area’s wealthiest neighborhoods. An isolated statistic? No, this is a
symbol of the larger problem.
One kind of community, throughout the nation, offers
every advantage socially, educationally, recreationally and safety-wise; the other offers violence, crime, hunger and disease - symbols of which include roaches, rats, mold spores, fast-food joints, liquor stores and fundamentalist churches where the hopeless implore sky gods to solve their problems. Good luck with that.
As the CDC report notes, this is a picture of “two Americas—one with ready access to the conditions that lead to good health; the other struggling to survive amidst an ocean of social problems that make healthy living a daunting quest.” (Source: Rob Waters, “200,000 Preventable Deaths A Year: Numbers That Cry Out For Action -- And Better Reporting,” Pharma & Healthcare, Forbes Magazine, September 4, 2013.)
Given the Tea Party mentality and chasm of differences that have led one political party to oppose any expenditures that raise taxes, particularly if targeted at improving the social determinants of health, what chance is there for major reforms? Can you imagine the current Congress voting “Marshall Plan-level” funding for what the CDC report describes as needed “policy changes that increase access to sidewalks and bike lanes, improve local food options, increase access to health care and insurance and create the physical, social and built environments needed to support health lifestyles?”
I didn’t think so.
If we can’t help the disadvantaged, let’s at least not insult them but asking why they don’t make better lifestyle choices.