Fa(s)t Food and Healthcare


The Tucson Citizen published a great article critiquing the nutritional content of fast food. It’s right on point. It can be a bit of a shocker when one learns that the double cheeseburger from McDonald’s contains 47% fat – or the “healthy” salad with dressing weighs in at 37% fat (daily recommended is 35%). So what’s the point? Am I just rehashing mindless statistics? There are countless studies that critique the nutritional content of food. Is there anything new?

No. There is nothing new in finding that fast food is unhealthy. Unfortunately though, many Americans sadly cannot seem to truly grasp this concept to the point of actually changing eating habits.

I was talking to a classmate in law school yesterday, and he remarked that businesses reduce its offerings to the lowest denominator that will make a profit. Sad, but true. There is a certain irony to this. The very things we crave can be the very things detrimental to our well being.

So where does this leave us?

I’m certainly no advocate of creating food police. The idea is largely untenable anyway. American’s love choices: Burger King or McDonalds? Wendy’s or Carl’s Jr.? Home cooked meals or going out? Changes in lifestyle come down to personal discipline. And while I don’t think it’s the government’s duty to protect us from ourselves, I am not opposed to modest regulations to channel us in the right direction.

Do you support a soda tax?

With the debate surrounding health care reform (Question: How do we pay for it?), another possibility to bettering the health of this nation is warranting a second look. (Answer: the soda tax). Certainly this possibility comes as bitter news to the sugary soda industry but lawmakers suggest that a nominal tax would help offset the trillion dollar price tag attached to universal health care.

I am favorably disposed to a soda tax because harmful actions should be discouraged; e.g. over-consumption of sugar.

As Derek Thompson from The Atlantic explains,

The added benefit of a sin tax is that by taxing something you consider harmful, you can win in two ways. If you don’t discourage consumption of the taxed good, revenues go up. If you do discourage consumption of the taxed good, then congratulations, you’ve reduced the sin you considered harmful in the first place. Considering the enormous impact of obesity on soaring health care costs, that would be a very good thing indeed.

Now, I do not believe it is the government’s role to dictate what we eat, how much we eat, and when we eat. I’m a firm believer in personal responsibility for my eating habits. However, I do believe the government has an interest in protecting the health of its citizens by passing regulations or taxes consistent with such goals.

And considering the enormous impact obesity impacts health care costs, it seems reasonable to tax those responsible for incurring such expenses.

I’m certainly curious to hear what others think. Why do you (or do not) support a soda tax?

Ten Reasons Why American Healthcare System Is In Better Condition Thatn You Might Suppose (1-5)

From Scott Atlas at the Hoover Institution:

1. Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers. Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the United Kingdom and 457 percent higher in Norway. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

2. Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians. Breast cancer mortality in Canada is 9 percent higher than in the United States, prostate cancer is 184 percent higher, and colon cancer among men is about 10 percent higher.

3. Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries. Some 56 percent of Americans who could benefit from statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease, are taking them. By comparison, of those patients who could benefit from these drugs, only 36 percent of the Dutch, 29 percent of the Swiss, 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons, and 17 percent of Italians receive them.

4. Americans have better access to preventive cancer screening than Canadians. Take the proportion of the appropriate-age population groups who have received recommended tests for breast, cervical, prostate, and colon cancer:

* Nine out of ten middle-aged American women (89 percent) have had a mammogram, compared to fewer than three-fourths of Canadians (72 percent).

* Nearly all American women (96 percent) have had a Pap smear, compared to fewer than 90 percent of Canadians.

* More than half of American men (54 percent) have had a prostatespecific antigen (PSA) test, compared to fewer than one in six Canadians (16 percent).

* Nearly one-third of Americans (30 percent) have had a colonoscopy, compared with fewer than one in twenty Canadians (5 percent).

5. Lower-income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians. Twice as many American seniors with below-median incomes self-report “excellent” health (11.7 percent) compared to Canadian seniors (5.8 percent). Conversely, white, young Canadian adults with below-median incomes are 20 percent more likely than lower-income Americans to describe their health as “fair or poor.”

Ten Reasons Why American Healthcare System Is In Better Condition Thatn You Might Suppose (6-10)

From Scott Atlas at the Hoover Institution:

6. Americans spend less time waiting for care than patients in Canada and the United Kingdom. Canadian and British patients wait about twice as long—sometimes more than a year—to see a specialist, have elective surgery such as hip replacements, or get radiation treatment for cancer. All told, 827,429 people are waiting for some type of procedure in Canada. In Britain, nearly 1.8 million people are waiting for a hospital admission or outpatient treatment.

7. People in countries with more government control of health care are highly dissatisfied and believe reform is needed. More than 70 percent of German, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and British adults say their health system needs either “fundamental change” or “complete rebuilding.”

8. Americans are more satisfied with the care they receive than Canadians. When asked about their own health care instead of the “health care system,” more than half of Americans (51.3 percent) are very satisfied with their health care services, compared with only 41.5 percent of Canadians; a lower proportion of Americans are dissatisfied (6.8 percent) than Canadians (8.5 percent).

9. Americans have better access to important new technologies such as medical imaging than do patients in Canada or Britain. An overwhelming majority of leading American physicians identify computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as the most important medical innovations for improving patient care during the previous decade—even as economists and policy makers unfamiliar with actual medical practice decry these techniques as wasteful. The United States has thirty-four CT scanners per million Americans, compared to twelve in Canada and eight in Britain. The United States has almost twenty-seven MRI machines per million people compared to about six per million in Canada and Britain.

10. Americans are responsible for the vast majority of all health care innovations. The top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other developed country. Since the mid- 1970s, the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology has gone to U.S. residents more often than recipients from all other countries combined. In only five of the past thirty-four years did a scientist living in the United States not win or share in the prize. Most important recent medical innovations were developed in the United States.