Update: I found this Berenice Abbott photo of a NY railroad in the Met’s online collection, so you get an added treat. If you aren’t familiar with Abbott’s work, consider this an invitation to “meet” her.
Today’s press release: obesity accounts for 21% total US healthcare spending.
The Cornell study reports that an obese person incurs medical costs that are $2,741 higher (in 2005 dollars) than if they were not obese. Nationwide, that translates into $190.2 billion per year, or 20.6 percent of national health expenditures. The study appeared in the January issue of the Journal of Health Economics (31:1). Previous estimates had pegged the cost of obesity at $85.7 billion, or 9.1 percent of national health expenditures.
“Historically we’ve been underestimating the benefit of preventing and reducing obesity,” said lead author John Cawley, professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology and professor of economics. “Obesity raises the risk of cancer, stroke, heart attack and diabetes. For any type of surgery, there are complications with anesthesia, with healing [for the obese].”
What does that have to do with addressing suicidality causes?
Many of the distressors associated with psychache have to do with social connectedness. Social connectedness is intregral in the immediate environment. What comprises a healthy, socially conducive environment?
Natural green spaces: parks, trails, gardens and safe places to experience them.
That means sidewalks, bike trails, cleared paths.
Adequate lighting, places to rest, benches, beaches, tables.
Access to fresh, potable water.
Access to places that provide fresh, whole foods – grocers, restaurants, farmstands, foodtrucks, delivery services – at affordable prices.
Access to educational and entertainment media suitable for all ages, cultures and customs – that would be the public library via walking, bike and public transportation.
Access to clean, fresh air – via public health regulations, and state and federal regulations on pollutants.
See where this is leading?
Back to the pump handle – public health measures provide the biggest bang for the healthcare buck. It’s all about making a healthy environment – one which promotes natural interaction by people in a healthful and pleasing environment – the default mode.
If Lillian Wald were here today, she would be doing the very same things she did almost 100 years ago in New York City.
People who are obese are, for them most part, uncomfortable. But they are responding to a culture of immersion in faulty food cues. Their suffering is largely preventable, and public health is the way to go. Regulate food producers, marketers and manufacturers. Remove advertising for manufactured food products from TV and print sources. Invest in public transportation, pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure and services. Regulate clean air, water and substances pollution.
In the US, it is incredibly difficult to find public places and spaces which encourage natural civil discourse. Culture is built around commerce, and indeed, today, politicians refer to Americans as consumers and not fellow citizens. People speak of “going to the mall, hanging out in bars, and going shopping” much more than any other activity where they would naturally come into contact with others. There are very few venues in which people can casually meet and interact with others. Almost all communal gatherings in the US are passive – attending movies, concerts and other events require no interaction or active participation. People remain isolated and alone even among large crowds.
It’s not rocket science – it’s basic humane infrastructure and service.