A Fat Smokescreen

My head spun when I read today’s San Francisco Chronicle article describing
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to promote “personal responsibility” and
healthy living as part of his health care reform.

“From too much junk food and too little exercise to missed doctor visits,
Schwarzenegger wants to get serious about shaping up California.

Although debate continues internally about how the administration would

encourage participation, officials said Friday that Schwarzenegger wants his
health care agenda to address not just cost and coverage issues but also
disease prevention.

The article goes on to focus mostly on obesity.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think people should gorge on Big Macs, French fries and not exercise.

But I believe the Governor’s focus on this could be a red herring that fails to help people understand the systemic failures that have lead to the nation’s increasing obesity and declining health.

To truly engage in prevention – and maintenance of chronic diseases – one needs insurance. Real insurance.

Not the kind that gives you one free mammogram a year and one free “routine” visit and
pats itself on the back. Not the kind that requires you to pay thousands out of pocket for the maintenance of your diabetes, high blood pressure or heart

Meaningful insurance is insurance that will really cover the times when you have indescribable
symptoms that doctors can’t seem to diagnose.

Meaningful insurance is insurance that will ensure you don’t hold off on going to the doctor because you’d rather save money and wait out stabbing pain in your side, hoping will go away.

Let’s get back, though, to dissect the issue of obesity:

In 2005, 14.2 percent of teens were obese. That’s nearly 500,000 overweight
teens, according to the latest California Health Interview Survey. Adults
fare worse, with 5.6 million – or 21.2 percent of the state’s adult

  • Why are people obese?

The Centers for Disease Control blames the prevalence of “abundant, but
nutritionally poor food’’ combined with limited physical activity.

  • Why are people eating nutritionally poor food?

It’s cheaper and it’s abundantly available.

  • Why is nutritionally poor food abundantly available – and cheap?

Well, authors Greg Critser and Michael Pollan believe it’s because of the ubiquity of high-fructose corn syrup, which flavors everything from soda to fruit juices to granola bars to ketchup.Nutritionists blame high-fructose corn syrup for the rise in obesity.(Read more about this here and here.

  • Where do you start?

Is the Governor willing to talk Safeway CEO Steve Burd (whose health plan
for managers is serving as a model for the administration) into banning the unhealthy
snacks aisle in his stores?

Is the Governor asking Carl’s Jr. to stop serving over-sized portions of
high sugar/high fat food?

If Schwarzenegger is unable to see that we are living in a system that has created an unhealthy environment, I can’t see the administration getting very far in his attempts for health reform focused on prevention.

To read the SF Chronicle article that set me off, click here.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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