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April 25, 2009
people have harder time resisting food that's bad for them, former Food
and Drug Administration chief Dr. David Kessler concluded after a survey of
brain studies for his new book "The End of Overeating." Some 70
million people, he estimates have some degree of "conditioned hypereating,"
mainly of high-fat, high salt, high sugar food. Getting people to recognize this
insidious addiction - fully supported by our culture, the poor economy and
merchandisers - is "the next great public health campaign," he says.
The solution? Getting people to retrain their brains. He suggests an awareness
campaign like that against cigarette smoking. It's a timely and critical idea.
We have to reduce health-care costs, but what's better - to deny medical
treatment or make it unnecessary? Any reform of the health-care system must make
prevention key. In addition to educational efforts, we might consider
incentives. I remember doing 100 pushups in high school as part of President
John Kennedy's Youth Fitness Program. Maybe we need tax breaks for going to the
gym (not just having a membership but actually going)? Or a tax on unhealthy
food. It's probably time to reconsider raising the alcohol tax as well. I'm not
sure tax policy is the best way to effect health change, but we've been using it
to encourage values like home-ownership and capital investment for years. Why
April 14, 2009
We take so much for granted. Imagine that you've finally bought that brand
new dream home. First, you notice a smell - probably just the smell of a new
house, you think. Then the wiring goes on the fritz. Then the plumbing has
problems. Finally, you find out that the drywall may be to blame. Worse, the
defective building materials may harm your health. To fix it, you'll need to
basically rip out the walls, the studs, the pipes and the wires. In other
words, the foundation is probably OK. There are so many things to worry about in
the world today. There
are big things, like the economy, nuclear weapons and global warming.
There are the important things, like your health, nutrition and personal safety.
And then there are the things that you never even think about, like defective
drywall from China. The little things add up and, together, they may
pose a bigger threat to you than South Korea's nuclear program. Perhaps the
bumper-sticker philosophy says it all: "Think globally. Act
locally." You can't change the entire planet, but you can change your
corner of it.
March 27, 2009
My record-keeping system relies on plastic storage bins to hold bills,
financial statements and my medical history. I'll admit, that's not a very
modern system for someone who carries a Blackberry and is longing to buy a
Kindle to read books. But I'm not alone in my backwards behavior. Many
physicians are also stuck in 19th-century filing systems. However, their
reluctance to move to an electronic
record keeping is becoming a bone of contention as the Obama
Administration seeks to improve the US healthcare system. Why allocate millions
toward modernization if doctors are averse to make an investment in a new
system? Even a filing dinosaur like me can see that if more hospitals and
doctors move into the digital age, it would enable greater sharing of patients'
vital health information. Improved record keeping may not sound like a lot, but
it could be a significant step in improving patient care.
March 19, 2009
I just became a great uncle, again, as my niece gave birth to her first. Now
half of my six adult nieces and nephews have five kids between them. Counting
spouses, that's 12 adults and five kids for household ratio of 2.4. That's
important, we know, because anything over 2.1 means the population is growing,
while anything under that means we're heading for extinction, slowly. But don't
worry. My family is not at risk of over-populating the Earth. Turns out the US did
record boom in babies during 2007, with the rate hitting the magic 2.1
mark. But the rate probably slowed during 2008 because - you guessed it - the
economy made young families think twice about parenthood. Well, not my niece,
apparently, but you get the point. It's actually a good thing my great nephew
has joined us in the rat race, lest we fall too far below the magic number and
drift towards oblivion. He's just a day old, and already he's saving the world.
Well done, lad!
March 1, 2009
Well, who knew? Counting
calories is the best way to lose weight. If you eat fewer calories and
exercise more, you drop pounds. Wild idea. And it may not be much trouble these
days considering most people need to count
pennies just as earnestly as calories. The FDA says more than 60 percent
of American adults are overweight. So start counting. Rather than spending
hundreds of dollars on gizmos that jiggle your fat for you and call it exercise,
maybe it's time to get outside and jog, ride a bike or go for a long walk - even
in bad weather. And if you want to calculate how
many calories you can eat and still lose weight, there are plenty.