There are a few key rules about raising children around food that will vastly improve your children’s health and wellbeing for a lifetime. These rules are simple, effective and based upon common sense. But I have found in my life that common sense can be anything but common. The reason for this is that people too seldom think about what they are doing, and in this case, how it affects their children.
1. Keep your refrigerator and pantry stocked with healthy food choices. Junk food that should not be a part of your child’s daily diet should never be kept in stock at home. This includes such things as sodas and other sugary drinks, heavily sugared breakfast cereals, candy bars, potato chips, and a host of over items too numerous to mention. Snacking options should include fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grain products. A healthy after school snack might be an apple or celery with peanut butter or hummus instead of a candy bar or potato chips. This is not meant to say that you cannot have pie a la mode on Thanksgiving, but only that this should not be a daily occurrence.
2. Never force your child to clean his or her plate. I can tell you from my own childhood that this was a major source of lifelong food anxiety. Even at age sixty, I still have trouble pushing back from a plate with food remaining. Rather, instruct your child to eat until they are full, and then stop. This will teach them self-regulation which is critical to proper appetite management. Do not worry that your child ate the chicken but left the broccoli. Forcing them to eat the untouched broccoli will only force your child to overeat and cause a serious food anxiety in the process. And here you do not need to worry about your child getting a balanced diet. Studies have shown that children will eat a balanced diet over the course of a week or so without any parental intervention.
3. Avoid fast food restaurants entirely. These places are the poster children of poor nutrition. The food served there is chemically engineered to be addictive. It is dense in salt, sugar, fat, cholesterol, and calories while being essentially devoid of nutritional value. If fast food is the only option available, I will seek out a Subway for an all veggie sandwich on whole grain bread.
4. Never under any circumstances use food as a reward or punishment. This has to be the worst food related mistake that a parent can make. Food is first of all nutrition, and is essential to human life. It is also a source of pleasure, but that does not mean that it should be used as a reward. Using food as a reward creates a food anxiety that can have lifelong effects. Adults, when they are hurting, have been taught to seek relief in “comfort foods.” When they are happy or successful they have been taught to celebrate by bingeing. Both of these states are based in food anxieties and not in nutritional needs. Using food as punishment is likely to be even more destructive. I cannot imagine a parent saying to a child, “Clean your room or we will not take you to see the dentist.” So why would a parent say, “Clean your room or no supper for you tonight!” The withholding of food for disciplinary reasons is child abuse pure and simple.
Health Care Issues
The Unites States spends 17% of GDP on healthcare, or over $8,400 per capita, more than any other nation. No other developed country spends more than 12% of GDP on medical care. And yet our people have some of the poorest healthcare outcomes in the developed world. Some 46 million Americans are uninsured. We rank 30th in infant mortality. Our life expectancy is 50th in the world, behind all developed nations. Medical expensed is a major factor in 62% of personal bankruptcies.
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Truly we are not getting the maximum value for our health care expenditures.
We need to have universal access to healthcare. This does not need to be accomplished through a government bureaucracy, but it does need to be done.
Universal healthcare will provide for early diagnosis and intervention, saving billions of dollars in the long run. As it is now, people without access to health care normally wait until their condition requires emergency room treatment at high cost. They are forced to wait until their minor medical issues become crises before their conditions can be treated.
Under the current health care system medical care is delayed for those who can least afford it. Imagine a small child with an earache. The parent is forced to delay medicalcare due to the high cost of treatment, let’s say $200 for a doctor visit, lab tests, and prescriptions. Without access to healthcare the child’s condition worsens until the child is taken to the emergency room with a high fever and unbearable pain. Because of the delay a relatively minor malady that could be treated for a few hundred dollars may now cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. And on top of this, the child may have become deaf or suffered other permanent impairment requiring a lifetime of special care.
Single payer health care will end the costly paperwork and delays caused by our current multiple-payer system. Health care professionals would be able to concentrate on providing health care as opposed to figuring out who is going to pay and how to prepare and submit the paperwork for reimbursement.
Pre-existing conditions will no longer be an issue as all will have insurance regardless of their condition. Everyone can be covered if everyone pays.
Universal healthcare will focus on prevention and early intervention. Vaccines, blood pressure monitoring, diabetes testing, cancer screening, health education, weight control, nutrition and exercise, stop smoking campaigns, and perinatal care will become essential programs for maintaining health and wellness, and for reducing healthcare costs in the long run. Under universal healthcare the focus will shift from disease care to wellness care.
We need a fundamental shift in priorities for healthcare. Under our current system, approximately 75% of a person’s health care expense comes in the final year of life. Instead of paying for heroic measures to extend life of the critically ill, we need to shift our resources and our focus towards maintaining health and wellness for all. In the most extreme cases, our heroic measures do not extend life, but only prolong death at a horrific cost. Those are healthcare dollars that could better be invested elsewhere.
Healthcare rationing will be required under any conceivable healthcare system. The old indemnity insurance system failed because plan members could demand essentially unlimited medical coverage. If the first doctor refused to do a requested procedure, the patient could seek out ten additional doctors, and undergo ten more sets of tests. Eventually, a doctor would agree to do the procedure, even if it had limited or no justifiable medical value. And the result was that the insurance company was expected to pay the full cost of the search for treatment as well as the actual treatment.
It is not financially possible to perform all of the medical procedures that we know how to do. Nor is that always the wisest course of action. The cost of heroic medical care is paid not only in scarce healthcare dollars, but in pain, incapacity and suffering of the patient as well. The cost of intensive care is approximately $3,000 per day.
If the patient in such circumstances has a chance of recovery, then the expense as well as the pain and suffering may well be worth it. But if the patient has no chance of recovery, then what is gained by the expense, pain and suffering? And in gauging the capacity for recovery we must use sober reasoning and not wishful thinking.
But we must also look at the negative quality of life for the patient. If a patient has no chance of recovery, how long should they be maintained by such heroic means? And furthermore, what is the quality of life for that patient? This situation demonstrates the difference between extending life and merely delaying clinical death. The irony is that under such extreme circumstances we treat our pets more humanely than we treat our parents.
Before making any major medical decisions we must also consider other factors such as the patient’s age, health, his or her capacity to endure the procedure, and the potential for improvement in quality of life that the procedure offers. For example, an eighty-six year old with congestive heart failure ought not to be considered for a liver transplant.
GPHIN works by monitoring global Internet traffic and other forms of communications for talk of illness or other threats to public health in local populations. Much as terrorists are tracked by their web chatter, the beginnings of deadly diseases are discovered through similar surveillance techniques. GPHIN has several times saved the planet from pandemics through early detection and early response to disease outbreaks. In 2003 it was GPHIN that stopped SARS from becoming a global pandemic. In 2010 GPHIN prevented a global outbreak of bird flu with origins in Iran.
GPHIN detected these early outbreaks months ahead of the World Health Organization, which bases detection upon a much slower channel of official government-to-government communications. This is in accordance to Dr. Larry Brilliant, a leading epidemiologist. Just as every second counts in fighting fires, every day counts in fighting infectious diseases.
GPHIN was organized by the Public Health Agency of Canada under the leadership of Ron St. John.
Link to GPHIN website:
Attached is a TED.com lecture on epidemics by Dr. Larry Brilliant.