At the end of each year the Internet magazine Xconomy asks its self-selected “Xconomist” panel to respond to one of a series of prompts that represent “big questions” for the coming year. As one of their panel members, I was asked to respond to the question, “What makes you optimistic?”
My first reaction, as this was asked of me as we were still heading for the fiscal cliff, was that I was optimistic that, since I am really short, it would take me slightly longer than others to hit the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. Beyond that I was thinking that my primary source of optimism for the coming year derived from the SF Giants setting themselves up for a World Series three-peat by re-signing Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan.
But as I was driving to work one day pondering on this question of what, at least professionally, makes me optimistic, the answer became clear to me as I cruised past McDonalds, and here it is below, as reprinted with permission from Xconomy:
As a person who has worked in the healthcare field for over 25 years, I am extremely optimistic about the recent trend towards the democratization of healthful behavior and good nutrition. We have finally gotten to a point where there is growing recognition across the nation that we can turn around our culture of illness by teaching our children about healthful eating and exercise from an early age.
The State of California has dedicated an entire task force to making California the healthiest state in the nation by 2022, starting with a bike that makes smoothies and ending with a statewide set of initiatives that are broad-reaching and targeted to all citizens.
More than half of our costly diseases, which compromise our national security, economy and quality of life, can be avoided by having a culture of wellness and good health. By making healthy eating/exercise as much a part of our culture as brushing our teeth every day, we will make America healthier, our nation stronger and ensure that we turn around the trend towards shorter life spans and infirm old age.
It is heartening to see an article like this where we see the hint of success in a reduced number of obese children across the country. If, as Michael Jackson said, the children are our future, we will have a much better future if they are healthier than their parents.
Efforts to make good health fun and cool, and the fact that they may actually be working, make me optimistic.
While the above was the entirety of my Xconomy response, I think it is particularly important to celebrate strides forward in healthy eating in light of the fact that 66.5% of Americans rate their own health as “excellent” or “very good” (Source: CDC/NCHS, National Health Interview Survey, 2011), yet it is well-known that about 50% of American suffers from a at least one chronic health condition that impedes their ability to live their lives to the fullest and, apparently, to count accurately to 100%. Furthermore, 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans are attributable to chronic diseases and a large number of these diseases would not be present if it were not for unhealthful eating and generally poor health habits.
And let’s be honest with ourselves, the car speeding us fastest towards that fiscal cliff is the one fueled by rising healthcare costs, most of which are associated with treating chronic illness. As Fortune writer Geoff Colvin pointed out in his January 4, 2013 article entitled, 2013: The Year We Become the Healthcare Nation, by 2037 “Without changes, health care alone will consume more of the federal budget than all discretionary spending does now — defense, law enforcement, courts, and all regulatory agencies.”
So while the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” has its origin back in 1866, it is heartening to think we have finally begun to get the message and that our kids will have a better chance at outliving us than might otherwise be the case. And if we can keep the next generation of healthcare costs down, we might just stop hearing about the “fiscal cliff,” or as it should probably be known, The Physical Cliff.