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Fixin' Healthcare

Monday, October 31, 2005

King County, Seattle, Washington

Residents of "walkable" communities have more opportunities to breathe cleaner air, drive fewer miles and lead healthier lifestyles, according to a report from King County.

Sustaining prosperity and improving the livability of King County's growing communities were the genesis of the King County Land Use, Transportation, Air Quality and Health Study. The report explores the linkage between how communities and transportation systems are built, and their effect on everything from driving habits to physical fitness.

Among its findings, the study shows that:
  • Residents of the most walkable areas of King County were more physically active - and less overweight - than those in areas with fewer pedestrian-friendly amenities.
  • Better connected streets, sidewalks and pathways can increase transportation efficiency and reduce automobile dependency as well as improve air quality and the health of residents.
  • Residents walk more when a variety of retail services are available nearby.
  • Transit and walking go together - people choose to walk more when transit choices are near.
  • The more interconnected the area, the fewer the miles that are driven.

These findings will be used as a tool to assist in the planning and evaluation of county policies and development projects that touch on issues including health care, housing, transportation and recreation. In King County they are coming up with the best practices, guidelines and policies that promote healthy living and physical activity.

The Executive Director of the Puget Clean Air Agency pointed to the study's conclusions on air quality and the built environment. "The fact that well-connected street networks promote the reduction of greenhouse gases is very compelling. The data show that good planning can literally help clear the air."

King County Executive Ron Sims said the study also lends support to his commitment to build the nation's premier network of bicycle and pedestrian trails. "These routes for recreation and alternative transportation are good for the environment, for reducing congestation and for the health of the residents of King County."

The study was conducted by Larry Frank, who drew on experts from the fields of land use, transportation, air quality, health care, finance, architecture and community advocacy.

Executive Summary: King County Land Use, Transportation, Air Quality and Health Study.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


The human body and mind have been sources of endless fascination since people became aware and curious. How they work, how they feel and what can go wrong with them are topics of great interest. There are many, many conclusions from all this attention but only a few are certain. It is certain the body and mind are complex and sophisticated and it is certain there is limited understanding of this complexity.

The body and the mind are as intimate as it gets. They strive to be in harmony, but intimacy with limited understanding leads to occasional alienation. One of the great struggles of the world occurs within each person. Reconciliation of mind and body is a never ending process. It is the origin of art and the basis for health and happiness.

Isn't life grand?

Decoding the Elephant

Once upon a time a leader called a gathering of all the men in his land who were born blind. To each of them he presented a different part of an elephant. One felt the head, another the ears and so on to the tail. When the blind men had felt the elephant, he went to each man and asked him to describe an elephant.

The men who were presented the head said the elephant is like a boulder. Those presented the ears likened the elephant to a fan. The tusks made the elephant to be like a ploughshare, the trunk a fire hose, the body a barn, the foot and leg a pillar and the tail a rope.

Then they began to quarrel, each supporting their position until they came to blows over the matter. Thus it is that in ignorance the nature of people becomes quarrelsome and supports the one side of a thing they assume to know.

Unhealthy lifestyles, global warming and poverty are examples of problems that cannot be ignored but they are complex with many facets. Knowledge about the different facets generates a variety of conclusions. Each conclusion contains sufficient facts to survive challenge but not enough to create an effective and efficient solution for the problem. These segmented expert opinions compete without progress toward resolution.

The history of civilization is characterized by institutions that brought people together for common cause and created the mechanisms for survival. Long term survival and success of a culture is based upon core values and building character. Education is the common denominator and it has been important where learning occurs, as well as what is taught.

A culture and its values are defined by choices and priorities. Each person is an example, a teacher and a student. Doing the right things preceeds doing things right. The elephant comes before its parts. The goal is that everyone should achieve and maintain the best health possible.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Your Brothers' and Sisters' Keeper

The purpose of health risk assessment is to determine the health problems most likely to affect you and develop a plan to prevent them. In America today those problems are the result of unhealthy lifestyle. That includes most of the chronic diseases and a lot of the depression plaguing our society.

Stop smoking and cease exposure to cigarette smoke. Walk everywhere you can with a goal of 10,000 steps daily. Eat whole foods and stop eating highly processed foods. Drink water, tea and lemonade. Stop drinking sodas. Avoid artificial sweeteners and "bars". Get a good night's sleep (the walking helps). Manage stress (the walking and sleep help). Maintain personal contacts. Compliment someone everyday. Try some periods of slow, deep breathing. Try optimism, it's more fun and usually cheaper.

Every person, family, church, school, workplace, club and community must reinforce healthy habits everyday. Helping someone else helps you. And, nothing is ever learned so well as when you teach it to someone else.

Optimum health is a team effort built upon personal responsibility.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Medication Nation

Over the past 50 years there has been an explosion of scientific research into human biology and disease processes. Basic pharmacology has utilized this information to discover and develop compounds with remarkable therapeutic capabilities.

The eager public acceptance of drugs for their real and perceived benefits has interacted with the economic and political systems in the US to foster gigantic health enterprises. Health care professionals are educated to rely upon medications for therapy and the public is primed to expect, request and demand medications to relieve a multitude of concerns and conditions.

According to government reports, more than 40 percent of Americans take at least one prescribed medication and 17 percent take three or more. Eighty-five percent of the manufactured supply of Ritalin is consumed in America. Performance enhancing drugs are commonly used by Americans of all stripes. In 2003, expenditures for perscription medications in the US rose 9.1 percent and only one-third could be attributed to price increases, the rest was increased utilization.

A medication culture has evolved within American society. The consequences are so great as to mold public understanding of health. Increasingly, personal and societal situations are perceived as medical problems amenable to treatment with medications. Financial considerations are overwhelmed by demand and the political system cannot withstand the pressure to respond with additional support. The cost estimates for the Medicare drug benefit have been low and will continue to be low.

Scientific research also has generated reliable information supporting the benefit of lifestyle to achieve optimum health status. The public has been slow to adopt healthy lifestyle compared to the utilization of medical care and medications. Twenty years ago Americans spent approximately 15 percent of disposable income on food and 8 percent on health care. Today those numbers are essentially reversed. Further, the types of foods that Americans eat, and do not eat, have a significant impact upon their health status.

Most medications are taken on a long term basis to treat the manifestations but not the cause of chronic health disorders and diseases. The tragedy is that most of these conditions could be reversed and achieve substantial relief by means of lifestyle. Eating whole foods, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, managing stress and maintaining normal weight are more beneficial, cause less trouble and cost less than medications.

Medications are chemicals and double edge swords that can cut in more than one direction. They never can be risk free. As long as the public clamors for drugs to address every conceivable condition, the risk will grow and the consequences will add to the cost of health care.

American society condemns drug addicition and the use of performance enhancing drugs by athletes. How much influence does the medication orientation of society have upon the use of illegal drugs and what type of influence is it?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The End Justifies the Means

Is there a difference between good health and optimum health? Are you satisfied with the absence of poor health or do you want the best health possible for you? More than likely, you think about such things in different terms. You want to feel good with a sense of energy and the ability to perform the mental and physical tasks that you enjoy or have the need to perform.

Although good health and optimum health may be the same, over time they are likely to diverge. The difference is in the process. One path will manage health problems as they occur and the other will manage health risk. One path is after the fact and the other strives to stay ahead of problems. One path is reactive and the other is proactive. One path is dependent and the other is independent.

The evidence continues to accumlate that optimum health depends more on how you live than the luck of the draw. More than you might have thought, the choice is yours.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Common Courtesy

When driving and you see someone walking or biking along the side of the road and you slow down to ease over to give them room, you are practicing preventive health care. Reducing risk for an accident and injury to the pedestrian is not the only thing I have in mind. You have commited an act of common courtesy that contributes to your equilibrium and good health, as well as the equilibrium and good health of your community.

Thoughts like these occur to me while walking my dog. Another thought that runs round and round in my mind is about all the trash along the roadside. Where did our society develop such a lack of respect?


The hurricanes in the Gulf Coast highlight how ill prepared we are for emergencies even when everyone knows they are in harms way. An article in the NY Times today relates the economic plight of the local and state governments in that region.

Other recent news articles have described some of the items in the federal budget and their relative value to the well-being of the nation. Each of those items is a local project and their presence in the federal budget reveals the inability of the federal government to establish priorities based upon the well-being of the nation. Prevention and maintenance are such long term issues and so dull without immediate gratification.

Everyday I hear from people about how little time they have. No time to cook or to walk. "I stay up late to catch up on things". And, they complain because they are tired all the time and don't have the energy to do anything. "I'm stressed all the time!"

There are 24 hours in a day. No one gets any more time than that. There are always limitations in time and resources. Lack of time is an absence of priorities. Prevention and maintaining optimum health are such long term issues and so dull without immediate gratification.

"We have met the enemy and the enemy is us" - Pogo.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Attention Deficit

that that is is that that is not is not is that it it is
That, that is, is. That, that is not, is not. Is that it? It is.

Get your day organized. Make today have meaning in what you want to accomplish. Today is last month's next month and last year's next year. Mental laziness breeds physical laziness that breeds mental laziness. It is a merry-go-round that leads to poor health, rapid aging and early death.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Speaking of flu and cold season, please avoid pressing your doctor for antibiotics to treat "flu" or a cold. Antibiotics are potent agents but they have no effect against viruses.

Antibiotics should not be used inappropriately because antibiotic therapy changes the balance in the vast array of bacteria that inhabit the colon. This might cause diarrhea or a more serious problem. The colon bacteria are essential for well-being by contributing to digestion of food, the production and absorption of vital nutrients, and protection against carcinogens.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a serious worldwide problem. The use of antibiotics increases the problem by reducing the "competition" and selecting resistant bacteria that grow and spread. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can pass from one person to another. When a serious
infection does occur, the treatment options are limited.

The best defense against viral infection is nutrition, exercise, hygiene (handwashing) and vaccination (influenza). The complex interaction of nutrients in whole foods sustain the immune system and protect against infection. Eat a diet high in vegetables and fruit with lean protein and low fat dairy. Eliminate highly processed food and junk food, especially those containing altered fat and trans fats. Exercise is beneficial for immunity. Stress and obesity can harm immunity. Vaccinate the children and young adults first.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Influenza Concerns

How could you not notice all the attention lately to influenza? Well, it is coming upon flu season and there is the concern about bird flu plus the discovery that the deadly 1918 influenza virus was a bird flu. Should you be concerned? Yes! Should that concern rank above plans for your diet and physical activity this week? No!!!

The virus and the conditions (World War I) for the 1918 pandemic were unique. This could happen again but the risk is low. An epidemic requires a population susceptible to the infectious agent and it moves faster and further when more people are exposed to infected hosts. When a significant and critical segment of the population is immune, it is more difficult for the infectious agent to spread.

Keep in mind that children and young adults have a more effective immune system than older adults, and children and young adults are more mobile than older adults. The best advice is to follow health department guidelines for influenza vaccination and vaccinate the children and young adults first. That is the best way to protect us old guys.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Try High Octane Fuel

Sorry to be gone for so long but I'm baaaack and still preaching.

Have you ever considered what a marvelous machine the human body is? It can utilize organic and inorganic materials to produce chemical energy and manufacture hormones, neurotransmitters and new cells. The organs function continuously for years. The body can adapt and grow and function in a number of ways. To do these things the body needs proper fuel and building materials.

Do you think these ingredients are in sodas, chips, crackers, fries, pastries or candy? Is it possible that artificial sweeteners, excess sodium and altered fats in processed food damage this machine and cause it to function poorly? Would you feel better and perform better with food and water that contain the ingredients the body needs?

Machines that are not used rust and inactive bodies age rapidly!