Posts Tagged ‘healthcare costs’

Another Way to Reduce the Cost of Healthcare

May 30, 2017
IMG_1923

Locally grown produce on sale at Uptown Market in downtown Columbus, GA, Saturday, May 27, 2017.

It’s no secret that the cost of healthcare in the United States is highest in the world, but  overall quality is low among developed nations. The United States ranks 37th in the world according to the World Health Organization.  As you probably know,  just about all of the developed countries in the world but the United States have universal healthcare.  Certainly the top ten do. While the debate on whether to go single-payer or continue for-profit is important, there is another way to drastically reduce healthcare costs that gets very little attention.  Poor diet reportedly is a major contributor to the cost of healthcare in the United States.

This was graphically pointed out by a Harris County farmer at a Wednesday night group discussion at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus, Georgia.  He provided some very interesting information from the Sustainable Food Trust. (Click on that link and you can read the report on The True Cost of Food Conference that was held in San Francisco.)

The report tells us the following:

Diseases related to poor diets in the United States account for 86% of healthcare spending.

Obesity annually costs taxpayers $2 trillion in healthcare spending.

About $5 billion is spent on  reactions to food dye.

877 million pounds of pesticides are used each year by industrial agriculture.

Americans spend about 6 percent of their annual income on food now as opposed to 16 percent in 1960. European countries spend 9-15 percent.

The U.S. government annually spends $20 billion taxpayer money on agricultural subsidies.   That  keeps primary crop prices low, which keeps food prices low.

The Government spends $153 billion annually on assistance programs to low-income earners, $75 billion of that in food stamps.

The market favors producing food on an industrial, unsustainable scale. “Sustainability,” in this context, means providing for the current generation without inhibiting the ability of future generations to provide for themselves.

So, the real cost of food is much more than the money you pay for it at the supermarket. For instance, your taxes pay for the $20 billion agricultural subsidies.

Just think about the social costs and dollar costs of  things like rising healthcare costs, air pollution, water pollution, climate change,  illegal immigration, allergens, and others.

So that’s what some believe is the problem. How about solutions. Our Harris County farmer listed these:

— Reward environmentally responsible food production.

— Use money from government subsidies, crop insurance, and food stamps to make sustainable food more available and accessible to the public.

— Raise taxes on artificial-chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

— Create healthcare incentives and encouragement to eat healthy food.

— Create investments in local, sustainable businesses.

— Pay agriculture employees better wages and improve working conditions.

You have to admit, cliché warning, that’s certainly food for thought.  One thought I have is that there needs to be a national educational program to inform the public about the benefits of following a healthy diet.

IMG_1930

One of the stands featuring locally grown produce at the Uptown Market on Broadway in downtown Columbus. The market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

 

 

Columbus’ Big Problem Is…

August 6, 2008

    Poverty.

Rev. Kim Jenkins, Executive Director of Open Door Community House

Rev. Kim Jenkins, Executive Director of Open Door Community House

  Rev. Kim Jenkins sees it up close and personal everyday. She is a Baptist minister who administers the Open Door Community House in Columbus, which is backed by the United Methodist Church.  She told me of a lady who admitted she had committed substance abuse. She said the woman said, “I have to get off the street. It’s just getting too dangerous out there. Violence is increasing; drug abuse is increasing. Please help me.” Rev. Jenkins said she started making calls and found a church that was willing to help her.  Rose Hill United Methodist helped her get a job.

  That is not always the case. She told me of one lady who came in shaking as she said that she was on crack and had lost her children who were all in state custody. She wanted shelter. Open Door was full. It only has 12 beds, all for women.  Rev. Jenkins called other shelters in Columbus, Macon and Atlanta. Nobody would take her either because she was on crack and they didn’t have medical facilities to deal with that.  Jenkins said she had to tell her, “There is nothing we can do for you.”

Guy Sims, Co-chair of Building Prosperity in the Muscogee County Area

Guy Sims, Co-chair of Building Prosperity in the Muscogee County Area

  And just how bad is the poverty problem in Columbus? Former Muscogee County School District Superintedent Guy Sims told me that the rate is 27 percent, which, he said, “is a lot higher than the national average.”    Sims, who is in between jobs now that Beacon University is shutting down, is a co-chair of Building Prosperity in the Muscogee County Area. His co-chairs are James Blanchard and Betsy Covington. They, along with about 40 other business and professional leaders, are working to develop a plan to do something about the problem.

  It took a little while to get Columbus leaders involved. They just sort of left coping with the problem up to service providers, places like the Salvation Army, Valley Rescue Mission,  House of Mercy, and Open Door. That changed three years ago when the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institue of Government issued a report showing poverty was the Chattahoochee Valley’s number one problem. She said that opened a lot of eyes and at least “the conversation started.” 

  Guy Sims, says, if anything, he is sure it is worse now, citing the worsening economy as a primary reason. And Jenkins says the demand for services at Open Door has increased this year and she is sure it is happening at the other shelters and sevice providers in the area. Many more people are seeking shelter than are getting it.  There are 2 thousand homeless people in Columbus.

  A banker told Jenkins four years ago that the mortgage crisis was coming and the homeless population would be increasing. That’s right, a Columbus banker saw the collapse in the home mortgage industry coming four years ago.

  Why should we care about the homeless, the working poor, shelters that are full and can’t possibly keep up with the increasing demand? After all, shouldn’t every tub stand on its own bottom?  Shouldn’t people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps? 

  Well, says Rev. Jenkins, besides the moral and biblical reasons for caring, self-interest should make us care. Poverty causes crime rates to go up and all of us have to pay for fighting crime. It costs us more when we go to the hospital because the hospitals have to charge us more to pay for all of those people that are converging on emergency rooms. Emergency room care is extremely expensive.

  A report by Building Prosperity points out that if everyone over 25 in our area got a high school diploma, that would increase wages enough to add $168 million to the economy.

  If they got college degrees, we are talking $692 million.

  If the weekly wage rate in Columbus ($564) were brought up to the state average ($669) $10 million would be added to the local economy every week.

  So there are practical reasons to care even if you are hard hearted.  Fortunately, not everyone in Columbus believes in practicing social Darwinism.