Monday, June 29, 2009

Are You a Food Citizen?

LoneStart Wellness talks a lot about nutritional content and making positive food choices. We talk about making modest yet meaningful changes in our daily “food and activity behaviors.” We talk about “spreading Viral Wellness™” and creating the mind-set that turns burdens into opportunities.” We don’t usually talk about pesticides. But . . .

Do you ever think about what’s on (or in) your food—or drinking water? You’ll probably be surprised, and disturbed, and maybe even disgusted. The Pesticide Action Network points out that the most recent figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (2001) indicate that nearly 900 million pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. each year. This is about three pounds per person.

What do the 900 million pounds of pesticides do? For starters, they make your apples, tomatoes, corn and other produce look nice. People who have organic vegetable gardens know that their vegetables don’t look like those in the bins at the grocery store. They aren’t full of chemicals either. The problem is, toxic pesticides are absorbed into the food—meaning they don’t wash off. They accumulate in our bodies. They accumulate in our soil and water.

According to the Pesticide Action Network, an average American child gets more than five “servings” of pesticide residue each day. Atrazine (a hormone disrupter) is a pesticide that has been banned in Europe, yet is found in 71 percent of U.S. drinking water. An analysis made by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) of more than 110,000 government-tested food samples, and detailed government data on children’s food consumption, found that multiple pesticides known or suspected to cause brain and nervous system damage, cancer, or hormone interference are common in foods many children consume. Take apples as an example: The EWG found the average apple has residues of four pesticides after it is washed and cored. Some have residues of as many as ten. More than half of the children exposed to an unsafe dose of organophosphate insecticides get it from apples, apple sauce, or apple juice.

And it’s not just about the food we put on the table—widespread use of toxic agricultural chemicals threatens the health of farm workers, wildlife and delicate ecosystems.

We have a controversial food production system. If we think about it, this is a concern we might all be hungry to change.

Monday, June 22, 2009

An open letter to President Obama from LoneStart Wellness

Dear President Obama:

You’ve made health care reform a priority, and rightly so. It’s been said, “the devil is in the details,” and maybe that’s why some important details seem to be missing in the ongoing national discussion on health care reform.

It’s true that our health care system is collapsing under its own weight. And, it’s true our nation needs health care reform. It’s also true that an ounce of prevention can be worth (in this case) many pounds of cure.

We’re not talking only about health care and health care reform. Americans don’t want to just talk about reforming health care. They want to know that whatever solution emerges will improve their access to affordable, high-quality health care and that it will be sustainable. That means we must shine a bright light on all aspects of our current health care delivery system. We must look for every opportunity to eliminate waste, redundancy and practices that exist more for the enrichment of the provider than the health care of the consumer. We’re dealing with an issue that is complex, has deeply entrenched private and public interests and threatens some of our fundamental assumptions about rights, privileges, profits and entitlements. While we do not yet know what shape comprehensive health care reform will take or what it will cost, we do expect that we will all bear some of that burden. That makes it “our” issue and our responsibility as well as our burden.

Let’s turn some of that burden into an opportunity to engage our citizens to become more proactive in their own vital wellness behaviors. For the past three years, we’ve proven that those most at risk for preventable chronic illness can and will change even satisfying and deeply-entrenched behaviors so long as they can believe that they have a reasonable expectation of success.

Almost one-half of all Americans report having a chronic illness, and about 80 percent of all chronic disease is caused by three preventable health behaviors—poor nutrition and overeating, physical inactivity, and smoking. Obesity is a major contributor to and accelerator of chronic disease, which accounts for 75 percent of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care in the United States each year.

We’ve seen those who at one time have been viewed as part of our health care problem, become part of the solution as a result of their success through LoneStart’s individual and workplace wellness programs. This is how what we call Viral Wellness™ spreads, from person to person, organization to organization, and then to families and social networks. It’s how we can turn wellness itself into a pandemic, and it’s how we can proactively reduce health care costs and utilization. Over time we have the ability to create a true Culture of Wellness in our families, our organizations, our communities and our country.

LoneStart Wellness asks you to expand the conversation and let all of us have a chance to address those “pesky details.” As the debate continues it’s time to bring each individual’s responsibility for our collective wellness into focus—devilish details and all.