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Entries in Health Care (2)

Monday
Mar292010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

ABC

Friday 9/8c

While many are praising the tumultuous passing of the health care bill, the cauterized media coverage and public opinion polls show all too clearly that America does not know how to have a civil debate about the most important social issues.

ABC / Holly FarrellPerhaps they need to be driven to dialogue and change through a more familiar avenue, like reality television.  Let’s hope that medium is more palatable to Americans as they watch Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, a six-part series on ABC that documents the British chef’s attempts to change the life-shortening eating habits of America’s least healthy town, Huntington, West Virginia. 

Having watched the first two episodes (available on Hulu), I can say that Food Revolution falls into the same trappings as many reality shows – painting people as caricatures of themselves, pitting heroes against villains, and squeezing raw emotion out of its stars.  After all, the series is produced by Ryan Seacrest. 

The message behind the series, though, is anything but trite.  Obesity is one of America’s leading health problems, and there is no reason that an overhaul of the health-care system should not also include food industry regulation and nutritional education.  Jamie Oliver has experience with enacting real political and social change through his whole foods educational approach. 

Oliver achieved success with program like Jamie’s School Dinners and Ministry of Food in his native England, which highlighted the dangers of processed foods in the school system and encouraged a community effort to rediscover the joys of home cooking.  His efforts raised public awareness and secured funds for an overhaul of the school lunch system, even earning praise from Prime Minister Tony Blair.  Just this year, Oliver earned a TED prize for his programs, an award shared previously by people like Bono and former President Bill Clinton. 

I feel strongly that regulation of the food industry and nutritional education need to be addressed hand-in-hand with the future of health care in this country.  Oliver gets it right by starting in the schools, with the children.  Food Revolution shows him battling a population entrenched in their habits, a school board system concerned with budgetary constraints, and a student body incapable of recognizing a fresh tomato.  By engaging real families simultaneously with government officials, Oliver’s efforts have a chance at making a real difference. 

Parents should absolutely watch this show with their children.  It will serve as a wakeup call to the type of food we put in our bodies every day.  It’s also great motivation for young, single people or couples to get into the kitchen and learn a few new recipes, so that we don’t pass on the same bad habits to future generations.  All of us can take more notice of the food we eat, and Jamie Oliver gives us an example we can proudly follow. 

Links

Sign Jamie’s petition for an American Food Revolution

Top Chef’s Toby Young on Jamie Oliver

Thursday
Feb252010

Sick of Health Care Debate

Today, there is a much-anticipated health care summit taking place at Blair House in Washington, D.C., called by President Obama to discuss differences between the Democratic and Republican plans for health care reform. 

What a novel concept, to actually have both parties in the same room, talking face-to-face about their ideological differences and practical resolutions, on live television nonetheless.  While it no doubt makes for great political theater, it could actually be a way to accomplish some progress, in contrast to the gridlock caused by swapping demonizing sound bytes. 

As I watch this experiment unfold, here are some of my thoughts on health care reform and the political circus that has surrounded it for the past year. 

1. Every person in the United States should have access to some form of health care.  Some 45 million people are uninsured in America; that's roughly 15% of the country's population.  One of the least insured demographics are people 20-29, which includes myself.  After losing my job last year, I haven't been able to afford health care.  And if I want to work for myself as a freelance writer, how will I ever afford it? 

2. The Democrats should have pushed to include a public option in this plan.  The party that has had the largest Senate majority in decades came to the health care table already compromising their progressive ideals.  Claiming they need 60 votes to beat a Republican filibuster was a cop-out, as they just now are realizing they can use the process of reconciliation, which would only require 51 votes, a process that Republicans used to pass Bush tax cuts.  Say what you will about the Republican platform, but they know how to push their agenda through. 

3. Stop using the words socialized medicine.  It is a loaded term, that those who use it do not understand.  The words are an attempt to demonize the left and Obama in particular, and is in fact a not-so-subtle mask for the racism that still exists in this country. 

4. If socialized medicine is so bad, why does Medicare work?  There is a lot of evidence out there that Medicare is cost-effective and people who use it receive good care.  Yet Republicans have a very complicated history with Medicare.  I agree that simply extending this model would not be enough to solve the country's problems, but at least it can serve as an example that a public option would not summarily ruin everything.

5. Senators receive health care for life.  Senators receive campaign funds from insurance companies.  These two facts alone render them incapable of approaching health care reform with the needs of the American people in mind.  It's not cynical when the only government I've ever seen in action is controlled by lobbyists and the desire for reelection.  I can only imagine what campaigns will look like now that corporations can spend without limits to back their horse.  

I'm hoping that today's health care summit will actually achieve some tangible results, and that the recent Republican track record of saying no to everything without actually producing an alternative plan will come to an end.  Unfortunately, I know that whatever bill ultimately gets passed is a far cry from the progressive vision outlined in Obama's presidential campaign, and it's a shame that Democrats' propensity for rolling over and playing dead may have cost him the lion's share of his political capital.

Please feel free to leave civil comments with your thoughts on health care.