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Both/And: Personal & School & Social Responsibility for Health

Many people are promoting a false dichotomy for who/what to “blame” for decades of pervasive inactivity & unhealthy nutrition--the key preventable factors which have led to the majority of adults developing chronic disease. Some believe that people with preventable chronic diseases made a series of unhealthy choices for decades, for which they need to accept personal responsibility for the consequences. On the other side, a growing number of policymakers focus on the “social determinants of health.”  In other words, there are many things beyond your control, which impact what you eat & drink and how active you are.  This includes factors such as your family, neighborhood, school, employer, transportation, public safety, housing, community layout, etc. etc.  It’s those external social factors which determine your health destiny.   Actually, the personal and social are inextricably connected--not opposite ends of the spectrum.  Let’s consider the role of schools. Schools can help
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America the Beautiful...The Sequel

The rarely sung second verse of America The Beautiful contains these words:        America!  America!        God mend thine every flaw,        Confirm thy soul in self-control,        Thy liberty in law! At a time when criticisms of US history are condemned as un-American, it’s worth listening to this.   As we noted in a previous blog post, the Founding Fathers expected a number of flaws in our country--and created a constitutional process to address them.  Often, this process requires prolonged citizen pressure to get political leaders to address a major neglected issue, such as gender inequality or racism...or a multidecade child health epidemic and a crushingly expensive health system--both fueled by government mismanagement.   Unfortunately, our advocacy experience so far reinforces this.  Why are political leaders so resistant to change?  Sure, they've got a lot on their plate. But how about prioritizing the big issues that matter deeply to the public? Powerful special inter

Are Junk Food Sellers Accountable for Harming Our Health?

Dutch citizens recently won what could be a game-changing legal verdict against the Shell Oil Company.  Shell is being held accountable for its role in a range of problems created by global climate change.   Going from the gas pump into the convenience store:  are those making & selling unhealthy food & beverages liable for the growing pandemic of diabetes & heart disease--caused to a major extent by unhealthy nutrition?   Given the past success of tobacco, vaping and opioid litigation in the USA, it seems that companies which profit from popular products that harm people may not get a free ride forever.   Of course, many argue that individual consumers are choosing to eat & drink unhealthy stuff.  If they want to do that, let them--and don’t blame the companies who supply them.  The problem is: those individuals often do not have the money to pay for their lifelong chronic diseases.  So those with healthy lifestyles end up with much of the tab—with their taxes & ev

GenZ Sue Boomers Over Health?!

We don’t usually think of Germans as being litigious--but desperate situations breed desperate measures.  The youth of Germany just won a major legal victory , in which they sued the government, dominated by older Germans such as Chancellor Merkel, over climate issues.  Younger Germans allege that those in power are not doing enough to prevent a future climate catastrophe, which would harm today’s youth much more than today’s elderly--who will be long dead by the time the full force of climate change hits Germany. Which makes me wonder: what if GenZ-ers and Millennials sued our ruling-class Boomers over their gross neglect of youth health?   Our older generations have allowed younger generations to develop epidemic levels of chronic disease. Across the country, our “leaders” wantonly permitted schools to slash physical & health education & recess.  This has been a major factor in today’s pervasive child inactivity, obesity & unfitness--inevitably leading to epidemic teen pr

Our Role & Results

OK, so we've been doing a lot of blog-tificating.  But what is it that we are doing to make things better?  And are we really still needed--if we ever were? When I founded what became Healthy Future US, I knew our task was extremely difficult. (As they say: “if it was easy, it would have been done already.”)  But I thought it would be quicker & easier than it has been.  After all, wasn't it increasingly obvious that our health and related costs were devastatingly out of control, with an urgent need to address the primary root causes of inactivity & unhealthy nutrition? As we enter Year 8 of full-time social entrepreneurship & advocacy, it's helpful to review our track record and rethink our future based on lessons learned.  This blog format is not great for lengthy explanations, but here are a few key points: - Start-ups always take longer and cost more than you think--even more so in the social sector, where public-policy timeframes stretch into decades. - The

Systemic AND Systematic

It seems like every social sector organization is providing "systemic" solutions nowadays. (That's a sure sign that funders are demanding that we address root causes more--not just programs as a temporary band-aid for symptoms of persistent major underlying problems.)   Of course, if everyone really were providing systemic solutions, we wouldn't have any problems anymore.  Instead, many problems are getting worse.  So, what are we missing?  What about truly catastrophic long-running and ever-worsening systemic issues like child obesity and adult diabetes? The social determinants of health (SDOH) framework shows us how complex such issues are.  But it's hard enough to reform one systemic cause of inactivity and unhealthy nutrition--much less trying to tackle a dozen at once.   This is where we can bring in a framework from the business world: 80/20.  What 20% of the effort will address 80% of the issue?  In other words, we need to review the main alternative strate

Rescuing the Rescue Plan

The massive new Affordable Care Act subsidies in the $1.9T American Rescue Plan are still not enough.   They never will be. "By next year, taxpayers will shell out more than $8,500 for every American who gets a subsidized health plan through insurance marketplaces created by the ACA, often called Obamacare."  Yet many with those plans will still have a $6,000 or so out-of-pocket deductible, on top of their subsidized premiums.  That  recent analysis  by NPR & Kaiser Family Foundation reinforces our previous blog posts.  Many people will be better off with a lower salary and "free" Medicaid coverage than a higher salary--even with highly subsidized ACA health insurance plans.  And "affordability" does not mean throwing unlimited federal money at something that is too expensive to begin with.   Let's face it (even though we still don't want to)--a s long as we are this unhealthy, we can't afford our health care.   So let's get healthier--