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Posts Tagged ‘health care reform’

Reform

Let me start by saying that I am a member of the Left side of the aisle. When I turned 18, I went to my grandmother for advice on which party to register under. She paused and looked at me with a very thoughtful look and said, “You are going to go home tonight and think very carefully about what matters to you, and then tomorrow morning you are going to register yourself as a democrat.” That was it, and it has been that way ever since. I do have beliefs that lean Right, but for the most part I have been, and still am, a member of the Left.

That said, this whole Health Care Reform debate is driving me nuts. Not simply because of the knee jerk reactions of the right (which inevitably lead to equally strong knee jerk reactions from the left), but because it doesn’t have to be this way. And, no, I don’t mean that politics don’t have to be nasty and mean (although that is true too). The way I see it, if we managed to get ourselves healthy as a nation, we wouldn’t have to pay so much into the system and this whole debate would be rendered somewhat moot.  We are a country that has grown somewhat fat and for lack of a better word, lazy.

The MTV generation and those that followed have come to expect immediate gratification.  That means if “being in great shape” doesn’t come after one hard workout and one healthful meal, they give it up and go back to the high fructose corn syrup and processed meats.  The statistics are out there.   Yes, the actual numbers vary from study to study, but there’s no arguing that as a people, we have gained weight (not just physically either, but that’s a topic for another post). Use the eyeball test.

Who’s to blame?

Restaurants serve over-sized portions and because of that, I believe we have started to do the same at home.  The Cheesecake Factory’s of the world are partially to blame, but so are we.  If we didn’t eat it all up, they wouldn’t serve it to us.  How about the food industry itself, with its low-fat this and no-fat that?  Diet soda is not the answer.  In fact, it has been shown to be part of the problem.  We’ve also seen a de-emphasis on physical education in this country over the last 30 years or so.  I seem to remember as a kid participating in PE more than just twice a week.  But by the time I got to college, the only physical activity I was participating was either playing beer pong in the fraternity basement (the original beer pong, not that watered down paddle-less crap the kids are playing today) or in the back of the bus on the way to a sorority formal.  I also remember seeing the news clips of Japanese company men starting their day, every day, with calisthenics.  Why aren’t we doing the same here?  Post-college I worked in a law firm where we were required to arrive early, leave late and there was no concern for our physical well-being.  I understand that getting to the business of the day is important, but imagine what a company could save on health care and sick day costs if their workforce was required to exercise on a daily basis.  The national mentality needs to change.

I hear the Right complain that they’re paying for the medical procedures of their deadbeat neighbors. I hear the Left cry about the poor, unfortunate folks without health benefits. I’ll admit here that I lean left on this one. I believe that no one should be denied medical attention if they need it, whether they can afford it or not, but I also believe that because of the shape we are in, we are incurring unnecessary costs that get spread to the community at large.

Bottom line is that whether you are on the Left or the Right or drinking Tea, this health care issue can be solved for most of us with two things – your left foot and your right foot.

If you love this country, be a patriot and start running. Make the insurance companies lower their premiums because we are all healthy and don’t need them as much. Get your neighbor to start walking.  If you’re still sitting on the couch, munching on that bag of processed foodstuff, ask yourself if you want your son or daughter to NOT have you there at their wedding? or at the birth of their child? or if you’d like to see your child see their child’s wedding?

You set the example for them whether you like it or not.

Like it.  Embrace it.  Show them how it’s done.   If you don’t have kids, do it for your friends, siblings, partner or parents.

It’s even more fun when you do it together. If you don’t know how, don’t be afraid to ask a runner to run with you. 9 times out of 10, they will gladly, no, enthusiastically go at whatever pace you can for as long as you want to go. That is the awesomeness of runners (most of us, anyway…and yes, I did say awesomeness). We don’t care what level you’re at, just as long as you want to do it. My natural pace seems to fall in the 7:45 – 8:30/mile range for runs up to about 18 miles, but I will gladly, GLADLY run at a 16:00 – 20:00/mile pace for as long as it takes if it means any of you want to come along. And believe me, I don’t care if it’s 1 mile, 10 miles or anything in between. We runners just want to spread the word.

Now I am not so naive as to think that getting everybody running in 2010 will solve all of our problems.  Bureaucracy is a slow-moving ship.  However, the long-term effects of a healthy population can only help to alleviate the burdensome costs of health care.  If we don’t need to treat the various diseases associated with obesity, alcoholism and smoking, then we don’t need to be paying for them either.

You want reform?  How about we truly tackle health care and reform our thinking as a nation – exercise is something everybody can do, no, should do.  Businesses should encourage their employees to get fit by providing an hour a day dedicated solely to exercise.  Schools should go back to the days when we let our kids run and play and run some more.  I am a self-proclaimed nerd and a firm believer in book education, but what’s the point of all that learning if we drop dead at 50 because our bodies give out?

Believe me, we can lick this Health Care issue simply by getting healthy. Don’t we (and our wallets) deserve that?

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Shortly after Thanksgiving, my friend Pete posted a challenge via the dailymile. Could each of us run 120 miles in the month of December? If 10 of us could, he would donate a decent chunk of change to charity. Truth is, whether 10 of us make it or not, he’ll probably give to his charity anyway, but I loved the idea of a group challenge.

Several day later, my friend Michelle sent out a cry for help via Twitter. She had set a goal back in December of last year to try to run 1000 miles in 2009. She was 105 miles short and was looking at trying to cover that distance in 25 days. She asked if we could help by running with her.

She is in New York. The rest of us are scattered all over the country, so she knows that we will not be able to literally run with her. However, the idea that each day, many of us will be running to accomplish 105 miles in 25 days is giving her the incentive and strength to accomplish her goal.

“We” are a group of runners loosely tied together through our associations with the daily mile, runkeeper street teams, Twitter and other social networks. Do I know these people? Not really. I have met Pete once (at the Manchester Marathon) and have never met Michelle. We’ve found each other through these networks looking for advice, information and motivation. We have found a bond in running and all (and I mean ALL) are welcome. I love that these social networks are using the emerging technology of today to bring together people who love the most ancient of all sports.

I hear over and over again that our dependence on technology has made us a nation of couch potatoes – a nation of obese, lazy people. We no longer have to get up to change the channel on the TV. With smartphone technology we don’t even have to go to our home offices to check email. We can do it right from the couch with the TV remote in the other hand. Dinner? A phone call away. Video games have taken our young and not so young off the playgrounds and streets and sucked them right back to the couch.

Well I’m here to tell you it’s time to re-frame it. Technology is what you make of it and the emergence of social networks can make us a fit nation again. Both Pete and Michelle are using technology to get people to run; to do some serious running. 120 miles in a month or 105 in 25 days is nothing to sneeze at. Before you non-runners tune out and say, “you speedsters don’t get it!” I would like to point out that “we” are runners of all speeds, shapes and sizes, ranging from the beginner who runs a 20-25 minute mile (most of you can walk at that pace) to the racer who is in the mid-5’s. We all cheer each other on. Your challenge doesn’t have to be 120 miles. How about 7 miles this week. Go walk a mile a day. Start where you can and then build on it. But don’t do it alone. Join a network and get motivated!

The point is that all of these people are here and they are together, using technology to improve their health.

In addition to the social networks, there are other technologies that are helping me and others run and stay fit. Runkeeper Pro is an app for the iPhone that I have been using since July 1st. It uses the GPS in your iPhone and helps track your route, pace, elevation and calories burned. You can program it to give you audio cues as you run so you can zone out and just enjoy your adventure. After your run it automatically sends your data to your web profile so you can review it later. One of the things I like most about Runkeeper is that the designer of the program is always looking to improve the app, which he has done time and time again. And, he has incorporated the social network concept into the web side of it. He gets it. The convergence of these technologies can make us strong again. But you don’t have to have an iPhone or a Garmin “watch” to map and keep track of your run/walks. Google has a perfectly good mapping program that allows you to input your routes yourself.

In this day and age, when most of us are trying to negotiate our way through tough economic times and the Congress debates the pro’s and con’s of health reform, running could be considered a patriotic thing to do. Raise the health index of our nation – lower the cost of care. And depending on your running style (barefoot anyone?), it doesn’t cost a lot.

Come join the party!

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