I continue to be amazed that the debate over changes to the nation’s health care system is not focused, or at least that a significant part of the debate isn’t about how to reduce the need for so much expensive medical intervention/treatment in the first place. The current debate assumes that the current level of medical care is a given, that it is going to increase as the population ages, and that more and more of the population will likely become obese, get diabetes, have heart disease, get cancer, etc. According to a recent Washington Post article it is expected that an astounding 20% of GDP will be spent on medical care by 2017.

It is obvious that substantial cost savings can be had by simply encouraging people to live a healthy lifestyle and providing them the education and resources to do so. If people live healthier lifestyles then there won’t be the need for as much extremely expensive medical intervention. E.g., the cost of lifetime treatment of heart disease can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for heart surgery, drugs, tests, disability payments, lost productivity, etc. etc. It is surely much cheaper to encourage people to live a lifestyle that substantially reduces the likelihood of getting heart disease in the first place.

In another example, one of the proposals to reduce medical costs is to have one stop medical clinics for people with diabetes. A recent Washington Post article states, “David Kendall, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Third Way think tank, notes that one out of every 10 health-care dollars spent in the United States is directly linked to diabetes. Pilot projects have shown that paying a medical team for total care -- monitoring blood-sugar levels, giving eye and foot exams -- rather than paying for each visit to an ophthalmologist or podiatrist is better for the patient and costs less.”

This is a good idea for reducing costs, even a great idea; however, it is staggering that 10% of the health care dollars spent in the United States are directly related to diabetes. The article goes on to say, "The financial losers will be hospitals that no longer amputate somebody's foot or the dialysis centers" that are no longer needed, he said. "That's where we save a lot of money.”

Thus, aside from the staggering financial costs of diabetes, we are dealing with the very real human suffering and misery of foot amputation, ongoing dialysis treatments, blindness, etc. How much better would it be to put our efforts into reducing the incidence of diabetes in the first place? Diabetes is primarily a diet and lifestyle disease, and the current obesity epidemic is a major contributing factor to its increased incidence.

The health care debate must include serious discussion on how to reduce the incidence of diet and lifestyle related diseases that are overburdening the health care system with unsustainable costs.

The natural and organic products industry, alternative health care providers, and especially vegetarian companies like Down to Earth have a lot to contribute to this discussion. To lower costs and to give people the gift of good health, the government should actively encourage people to:

  • Adopt a vegetarian plant based diet consisting of natural and organic foods which are low in sugar and salt etc. (In relation to this, the government should stop subsidizing industries that sell unhealthy foods full of things like corn syrup that are addictive and lead to people consuming way more calories than they need)
  • Use alternative therapies, acupuncture, homeopathy, ayur veda, naturopathy, etc. where appropriate, rather than relying solely on invasive and expensive conventional western medicine approaches of treating symptoms rather than addressing the underlying causes of the disease
  • Make judicious and appropriate use of dietary supplements
  • Get regular exercise, breathe fresh air, and drink lots of clean water (rather than soda which is full of calories, or alcohol containing beverages)
  • Not use tobacco, alcohol or drugs

If this approach was adopted the savings would be in the trillions of dollars over the course of a decade, thus making the provision of medical insurance for everyone more affordable.

To read The Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/25/AR200907...