Thursday, February 17, 2011

Editorial: Health care starts with us, not reform

An unusually smug unnamed Courier editor opines, "If we all paid better attention to what we eat, health care reforms would be a formality and those who get cancer could be the exception." I think this only shows that most Americans, in particular the editor, really don't understand the breadth of what we mean by "health care," nor what it's like to live in a country where health care is secure.

Conservatives love to mouth the mantra, "America has the greatest health-care system in the world." If you accept that as true, it's got to be very hard to understand why we get below-average health-care results on pretty much every useful measure. So it's tempting to divert the blame for that from the system to the individual. You eat crap, whatever happens is your fault, right?

That said, I hardly know where to begin. Even leaving aside simple stuff like accidents and babies, one might conclude from this that the editor thinks a higher-quality diet prevents mental illness, viral and bacterial infections, parasites, genetic predispositions, drug reactions, allergies, and any number of other maladies.

I don't think the editor means what he seems to say. He's trying to talk about a complex issue in a very small space and just not managing to keep the result from sounding idiotically facile. That might take another ten minutes of editing, and deadline looms.

Yes, a better average diet will reduce health problems on average, but a forward-thinking, nonprofit, prevention-oriented health-care system, as well as a sustained public-policy priority on a healthy populace, would furnish a lot more support for eating right.

This isn't the tired old dichotomy of either I do for me or the government does for me. This is about working together to build systems that help us all to help ourselves.