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Fixin' Healthcare

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Plea To Congress

Dear Members of Congress:

I hesitate to write about the situation concerning energy supply and health status in the United States because you already know everything I could possibly tell you. That being said, the burden of my letter is a point of emphasis that represents a critical pathway for future progress.

The growing energy supply and health problems confronting the United States are linked and each is a major contributor to turmoil in the economy. Together, the problems in energy, health and the economy create conditions that will become increasingly disruptive for US society. Lifestyle is the linkage between these areas and lifestyle is the pathway for effective and sustainable solutions for critical problems, as well as progress for our nation. Anything else is a fix of limited effectiveness leading to a future of larger, more severe problems.

Drilling for oil wherever it might be located and when it might be necessary should be one part of national energy policy, but the current situation does not require opening contested sites. Also, everyone who needs essential and effective medical care should receive it but providing health insurance does not achieve that objective or lead to the goal of optimum health status for individuals and the population. Drilling for oil in fragile and treasured places and universal health insurance beg the issues of sustainable, affordable energy for future generations and improved health status for all Americans. These proposals serve as distractions and I suspect that is the purpose.

Americans lead lives of excess consumption and they are wasteful of resources. Thrift, conservation and prevention are not basic principles guiding lives in the United States. When faced with the consequences of unhealthy and wasteful lifestyles, the demand is for immediate solutions that will not increase costs or change lives. Yet, the true costs of living are not well understood and when full costs are examined the findings are not welcome. The extensive highway system along with its many bridges is deteriorating because the true cost of design flaws and maintenance has never been paid. If the full cost of smoking (including subsequent medical care) was to be applied to each pack of cigarettes, the price would be an eye opener but it would be reality.

The political leadership of this country, present and future, must develop and implement policies that encourage and permit lives that are thrifty and healthy. Thrift and health are basic human and American values. Every day, I see people who are struggling to live by those values. The task is to show them how to do that and provide the framework to do so. Meanwhile, miles driven are decreasing and sales of SUV’s are down. These are good things more in sync with reality than drilling for oil off shore. One wonders as to the potential saving of natural resources with only a modest downsizing of new construction. Getting people to increase walking, increase consumption of vegetables and fruit and lose weight would do more to improve the health of the population than advertising drugs to the public. Improving health and increasing sales are not synonymous.

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of the welfare of America.

W. Marcus Newberry, M.D.

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