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Joe De Sena Has the Answers Yet Again

There's few things I love more than white men mansplaining the world's problems and offering their oversimplified solutions. If you're a regular reader of my infrequent blogging, you can read past thoughts here, here, here and here.

Here's the article. Before we get to Joe's ideas for fixing the country, let's review one of his opening paragraphs:

We are overweight, depressed, angry, and sick. We spend too much money on preventable healthcare. I have lived all over the world. The residents of other high-income nations live longer than Americans, and they spend far less on healthcare. They are less likely to suffer from heart disease, lung disease, obesity, and diabetes. We are trailing nations in life expectancy, and most of those nations spend less on healthcare and develop fewer life-saving drugs and treatments.

He's right--we are overweight, depressed, angry and sick. Without specifics, it's hard to know what he's referring to with respect to the United States spending too much money on preventable healthcare. Does he mean preventative? Or healthcare related to conditions that are preventable if people eat healthy and exercise? This is unclear.

He's also correct in citing that the United States is woefully behind other countries with respect to health stats, but he leaves out the WHY. Our healthcare system is incredibly complicated and fragmented (I highly recommend reading An American Sickness if you're looking for a book that does a great job explaining the intricacies of the healthcare system. Yes, I am a healthcare nerd that loves to talk about this stuff). Much of this is driven by health insurers, drug costs, what is (and isn't) insured, and the deals insurers make with their providers with respect to reimbursements. The country's largest health insurer in the States is a for-profit company (United Healthcare). I could go on and on about the multitude of other issues (healthcare disparities, anybody?). But if you're Joe, it's way easier to spout off facts rather than understand the why behind these issues.

Idea #1: Build and Implement a 3-year High School Resiliency Program

Based on the two sentences describing this idea, this sounds like some kind of military program and based on how women and minorities are treated in the military, I'm going to pass. But kids who participate would get financial support for college or money to start their own business. Great. How much money? Where is this money coming from? As an entrepreneur, I fully support entrepreneurship, but if we want to setup these kids for success, how about some job experience or training on how to run a business first? More specifics are definitely needed but specifics tend to hinder the grandiose ideas that aren't thought through.

Idea #2: Incentivize a Healthy Lifestyle

"We need to completely overhaul our daily lifestyles. It's not complicated. Exercise more, eat less sugar and less processed food, and get outside more often." Oh Joe. Welcome to the world of behavior change. If it wasn't complicated, we wouldn't be in the position we are in. Heard of food deserts? Seen how expensive fresh, unprocessed food is? Been a working parent? Been a single mom? Had to deal with an aging parent? Worked for an employer that don't give a s*** about most of their employees? Joe--you live in Vermont, which is a state I love, but it's the middle of nowhere. Our country is generally not designed for walkers or cyclists. We drive everywhere.

Again. It's easy to spout off on the obvious. If it wasn't complicated, we wouldn't have these issues. Many people don't have access to healthy food, and when processed food is cheaper than fresh food, guess what people are going to buy? Think of it as a hierarchy of needs: would people love to make healthy meals every night? Of course. But these things take time, money and energy, and all three are in short supply for those that don't have a wife at home to take care of this for them.

Idea #3: Deincentivize Unhealthy and Potentially Harmful Habits

Dear Joe--these exist. They're called "sin taxes", and while they can work, they're not perfect. They also impact those in lower socioeconomic brackets more than those in higher socioeconomic brackets. What sin taxes don't take into account is human nature. Humans generally don't think about how the soda or junk food they're eating now will affect their health somewhere down the road. And not everyone who eats junk food or drinks soda is unhealthy. Plus, this food is inexpensive (go back to Idea #2 re: food costs and hierarchy of needs) and far more affordable than fresh food.

I was willing to hear Joe's ideas. But his ideas just show that he wants to opine but not really do anything about the problem. What do you think? Am I off base?

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