Friday, September 25, 2009

Strange bedfellows

I've been hearing quite a bit about healthcare reform and local food these days. Believe it or not, they're related. Some have proposed the idea that foodies and health insurers may become allies in the push for local, sustainable food systems in the near future. Talk about strange bedfellows....

From local food activists in Wisconsin to Michael Pollan (one of my heroes) all the way up to our president (one of my other heroes) in a recent speech on healthcare reform, folks are beginning to make connections between improved health and eating more fresh, locally-sourced and chemical-free produce, meat, and dairy. In his recent op-ed in the NY Times, Mr. Pollan links an increasingly unhealthy American diet and rising healthcare costs, speculating that if insurance companies in our country are mandated to cover *everybody* -- no more of the denials and pre-existing condition loopholes leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans suffering and deeply in debt -- they would become strong allies in the effort to promote healthier eating habits.

With 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 projected to develop diet-related diabetes, it will be in the interest, at long last, of the healthcare and insurance industries to educate people about the importance of food choices rather than perpetuating -- some conspiracy theorists might even say encouraging -- poor dietary habits. "As things stand," Pollan writes, "the health care industry finds it more profitable to treat chronic diseases than to prevent them. There's more money in amputating the limbs of diabetics than in counseling them on diet and exercise." What the...?? He's right! If insurers are required to pay for all treatment, suddenly more cost-effective preventive (never mind conscientious) steps like counseling about food and exercise will emerge as the better method.

In the meantime, I propose this: how about while Congress, the president, and interest groups are battling it out to "fix" our healthcare system we make an effort to buy more fresh, local food and reform both the food and healthcare industries simultaneously, one forkful at a time? What a delicious solution....

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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