To say the list of government health related programs is long doesn’t quite do it justice. There are a crazy number of health programs, councils and departments that seemingly have great intentions, but actually accomplish very little.
And I say that not to be demeaning or defeatist, but they all began with the best of intentions, much like other areas of health (food, insurance, medical care, etc.).
When we began separating out areas of health into miniscule departments and agencies, we slowly got away from helping people get and stay healthy.
Our health isn’t separated into food, nutrition, public food assistance, medical care, preventative care, and the list goes on. Our health is our health as a whole – it’s multifactorial and complicated and overwhelming at times. So much so, that we thought by breaking it down we could have the parts be greater (and more successful) than the sum of the whole.
But with every addition of another government program or agency, we’ve regressed in mesures of our health.
Where Does Health Happen?
It has been estimated that roughly 80% of our health care happens outside of physician offices, clinics, and hospitals. Where then, you ask, does it happen?
It happens at meal times, in school lunches, in gym class, in the grocery store and the like. Those factors affect our health more so than the clinical setting, but we don’t commonly give much thought to it as part of health care.
There are things referred to as determinants of health (DOH for short) that include things like income, social status, employment, working conditions, education, literacy, childhood experiences, physical environments, social supports, coping skills, healthy behaviors, biology/genetics, gender, culture, race, and access to health service.
Notice only one of those – the last one – referred specifically to the clinical setting of healthcare. The remaining items can and do affect access to health service, but they are much, much bigger than that as well.
Our health happens every minute of every day with each decision we make to do, or not to do, something; to eat, or not to eat, something.
Treating Symptoms or Cause?
You would think then, that since 80% of our health happens outside of a clinical setting that funding would (or should) be reflective. After all, if we can impact health before a health service or clinical setting is required, it seems an ounce of prevention really would be with a pound of cure.
But the reality is quite different and a massive amount of spending is centered on the 20% – the spending budget for Medicaid and Medicare total over one trillion dollars.
ONE TRILLION DOLLARS. No typo – that’s trillion, with a T!
That’s how much our government spends on just two programs that often treat symptoms rather than curing what ails us.
Yet, the USDA, which is responsible for the government program MyPlate that helps educate Americans on what to eat, has a budget of $146 billion. And that’s for all of the USDA, not specifically the MyPlate initiative.
Another example – there are estimates as low as 5% for the number of Amerians who meet recommended activity levels each week. Clearly efforts to educate on the benefits of activity are falling short and we’re missing the mark.
So yes, you’re reading this correctly… instead of spending a fraction of healthcare costs to educate Amerians on how to get healthier (which would affect lasting change and reduced costs over lifetimes), we’re spending over a trillion dollars annually on treating symptoms of many avoidable diseases such as obesity related heart conditions, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
What the Health?
The whole reason I’m writing about all of this government spending and budgeting for health is because what we’re doing is simply not working. When we gave over responsibility for our health to the government, we got sicker, fatter, and unhealthier.
When the monster of government and the accompanying politics/lobbying that goes along with it is in charge of our well-being as individuals, we’re doomed.
Which is why I massively advocate for taking back ownership over your health. The government just isn’t equipped to help individuals on such a grand scale. Just like there will never be a magic pill for exercise, there will never be a magic program from the government for our health.