retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Even as budgetary battles unfold in Washington, DC, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman has an interesting piece about a way in which the nation can save money. A lot of money.

Some excerpts from his most recent piece:

• “For the first time in history, lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and others kill more people than communicable ones. Treating these diseases — and futile attempts to ‘cure’ them — costs a fortune, more than one-seventh of our GDP.

“But they’re preventable, and you prevent them the same way you cause them: lifestyle. A sane diet, along with exercise, meditation and intangibles like love prevent and even reverse disease. A sane diet alone would save us hundreds of billions of dollars and maybe more.

“This isn’t just me talking. In a recent issue of the magazine Circulation, the American Heart Association editorial board stated flatly that costs in the U.S. from cardiovascular disease - the leading cause of death here and in much of the rest of the world - will triple by 2030, to more than $800 billion annually. Throw in about $276 billion of what they call ‘real indirect costs,’ like productivity, and you have over a trillion.”

• “Similarly, Type 2 diabetes is projected to cost us $500 billion a year come 2020, when half of all Americans will have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Need I remind you that Type 2 diabetes is virtually entirely preventable? Ten billion dollars invested now might save a couple of hundred billion annually 10 years from now. And: hypertension, many cancers, diverticulitis and more are treated by a health care (better termed “disease care”) system that costs us about $2.3 trillion annually now - before costs double and triple.”

• “It’s worth noting that the Federal budget will absorb its usual 60 percent of that cost. We can save some of that money, though, if an alliance of insurers, government, individuals - maybe even Big Food, if it’s pushed hard enough - moves us towards better eating ... Corny as it is to say so, if we can put a man on the moon we can create an environment in which an apple is a better and more accessible choice than a Pop-Tart. Some other billions of dollars must go to public health. Again: we built sewage systems; we built water supplies; we showed that we could get people to eat anything we marketed. Now all we have to do is build a food distribution system that favors real food, and market that.”

Standing in stark contrast to Bittman’s recommendations is a story in USA Today about a new YMCA survey, saying that “most kids don’t come close to getting enough exercise daily and don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables: 62% of 1,630 parents with children ages 5 to 10 say their kids eat junk food one to four days a week.

“Only 14% of parents say their kids eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day.

“These results shed light on the reasons for the childhood obesity epidemic. About a third of children in the USA are overweight, which puts them at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and other health problems.

“Even though 89% of parents rate themselves good or excellent in providing a healthy home environment, most say they face serious roadblocks to providing healthy lifestyles for their kids, citing too many competing activities - especially social networks, computer games, TV and cellphones.”
KC's View:
The contrast just struck me. And I think Bittman is right - we can do better, as parents and as a society. The first step, I guess, is that we have to stop kidding ourselves.