Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Preventive Medicine

All of this talk about health care is making me hungry for some preventive medicine...or..however you want to say that creatively.

Anyways, preventive medicine is a great way to include principles of sustainability in the health care reform because what is good for your health and what's good for the planet often coincide.

Take, for example, your food and beverage. New York talked about passing a tax on sugared soft drinks to much outrage from conservative talk radio. However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest presents this calculator that shows how much revenue could be gained from placing a small tax on sugared beverages. Getting people to eat a more healthful diet (less high-sugar, high-fat, high-sodium, highly processed food in favor of more whole foods) benefits the environment because of the energy savings from the production process--the bottling, packaging, high-fructose-corn-syrup making process that characterizes our food industry.

What else would be a part of preventive medicine?

Also valuable to both people and planet would be an increased sin tax on cigarettes, another possible source of revenue. Cigarettes, unlike other drugs, have a direct health effect on those around the user (not just the user him/herself). Smoke pollutes the air and your lungs, releasing toxins into both. If we want clean air and healthy people, smoking needs to go down.

It would not be politically feasible to levy too high of taxes on these goods; HOWEVER, the volume of the purchases produces the revenue. Money can be reinvested in healthful school lunches and anti-smoking campaigns (and the people-friendly cities noted below), and overall consumption would go down a bit (maybe just slightly--but every bit makes a difference). Food companies would be able to innovate their way out of the problem if need be--finding ways to offer healthier options to the American public. (How nice would it be to see fewer--and more prounounceable--items on the ingredients of your food!)

However, the energy you take in is not the entirety of preventive medicine; one must also think about the energy put out, i.e. exercise. Making cities and suburbs more friendly to walking and biking as alternative means of transportation keeps waistlines thinner and emissions levels thinner as well.

Healthy people, healthy planet, healthy budget, healthy reform.

The photo comes from the CSPI's site (linked above), where you should go to take action!

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