Health Policy News and Views
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd
The amount of conflicting nutrition data out there is enough to give anyone heartburn. Last week I had my annual routine physical exam and was talking to the doctor about my exercise and diet routine.
For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet: Everybody lies, and every physician knows you’re lying … about how much exercise you’re getting, how much wine you’re drinking and how healthy you’re eating. Three drinks a week? A social smoker? Exercising four days a week? Low-fat, low-salt diet? Laying off the sugar? Lies, lies, lies. Physicians each have a multiplication factor they build into every one of your responses, I’m guessing.
Back to the physical: The doctor had some great suggestions about how to lose the extra, ahem, 10 pounds I need to get rid of. (Lies, lies, lies, remember?)
“Do what you do at a restaurant,” she said, “and start with a big salad at every meal, served separately.”
Also, drink a glass of water before your meal. Eat slowly; enjoy conversation while you’re eating. It takes 20 minutes for Mr. Stomach’s message to reach Ms. Brain and let her know she can stop Big Mouth because he’s full. Also, don’t put the platter on the table. Make yourself get up from the table to get more food if you want.
And I nodded at all her great suggestions. Then stopped on the way home at the Wendy’s because, of course, I had starved myself beforehand in anticipation of getting on the scale at the doctor’s office. (Don’t raise your eyebrows at moi; you know you do this, too!)
OK, I made up the part about stopping at Wendy’s. But I would have stopped if I had the time.
I really liked the idea of the salad and started working on that. My abundant tomato crop this year was helpful, too. Then my friend Ken Green shared a post on Facebook from the Washington Post that has me wracked with guilt. Yes, the salad will fill me with empty calories. But it gets worse, to summarize Tamar Haspel’s article:
There’s one food, though, that has almost nothing going for it. It occupies precious crop acreage, requires fossil fuels to be shipped, refrigerated, around the world, and adds nothing but crunch to the plate. It’s salad, and here are three main reasons why we need to rethink it. Salad vegetables are pitifully low in nutrition. The biggest thing wrong with salads is lettuce, and the biggest thing wrong with lettuce is that it’s a leafy-green waste of resources.
Salad fools dieters into making bad choices. Call something “salad,” and it immediately acquires what Pierre Chandon calls a “health halo.”
Lettuce has a couple of No. 1 unenviable rankings in the food world. For starters, it’s the top source of food waste, vegetable division, becoming more than 1 billion pounds of uneaten salad every year. But it’s also the chief culprit for foodborne illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, green leafies accounted for 22 percent of all food-borne illnesses from 1998-2008.
Of course, the nutritional debate goes on: coffee, on again, off again; wine – good and bad; coconut oil – healthy and unhealthy; carbohydrates – eat or eat less; red meat – keep or eliminate; dairy products – eliminate or participate. The latest under fire is breakfast. Long described as the most important meal of the day, now researchers say skipping breakfast isn’t so bad after all.
What I’ve learned (even if I don’t always practice it!) is that moderation is the key. Eat ice-cream, eat meat, drink milk. Exercise, keep a positive mindset and don’t do anything in excess. Moderation! And most of all, remember this: None of us get out of this alive.
September 16: Health Connect South 2015 takes place at the Georgia Aquarium. The is the preeminent organization dedicated to gathering the best and the brightest leaders, innovators, and decision makers in Georgia’s health ecosystem. This amazing program highlights health collaborations and innovations throughout the Southeast, with a special focus on the ebola response. Plus Georgia Public Policy Foundation members get 20 percent off the registration fee before August 31 with the code GPPF_HCS02015; go here to register.
October 15: Register until Sept. 4 at the Early Bird Rate of $100 for the 6th Annual Georgia Legislative Policy Forum, hosted by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Conservative Policy Leadership Institute. The theme is “Wisdom, Justice and Opportunity,” and speakers will highlight the opportunities in education, health care and workforce development in Georgia. Find out more and register here.
It’s OK to ask a clinician: Ask doctors and nurses to wash their hand before taking care of you. Watch this video.
Politics and medicine: The American Medical Association is the leader among the top 20 health care lobbyists by spending, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. It ranks No. 5 in spending among all lobbyists, regardless of industry. Find out the rest of the top 20 here.
Understaffed, undersupplied and overspent: Oglethorpe, Ga. -based Hutcheson Medical Center, which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2014, could soon lose its bankruptcy protection, according to a Times Free Press report. The U.S. trustee who oversees the hospital’s case has asked a judge to terminate Hutcheson’s chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because it has incurred another $5 million of debt since November 2014 and has failed to file a reorganization plan. Further, it’s reported to be borrowing supplies and understaffed in the clinic and lab. The hospital calls the allegations “baseless.”
Vaccination: After the measles outbreaks this year that affected unvaccinated adults and children, the American Nurses Association is now advocating for everyone, including registered nurses, to be vaccinated for vaccine-preventable diseases, citing the only exceptions as medical or religious reasons. This aligns the association with recommendations from the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Universal flu vaccine: According to the journals Nature Medicine and Science, we may be closer to a universal flu shot than we think. As The Washington Post reports, right now, coming up with the three or four strains in Americans’ annual flu shots is a guessing game. Several months before the flu season begins, scientists, public health officials and representatives from big pharma meet to try to determine the best formulation by looking at the geography of the strains, the timing of outbreaks and what happened in previous years. Vaccine development today works by targeting part of a flu virus that is constantly mutating, leading to the mad scramble each year to predict what will happen next. In the new studies scientists were able to use a different part of the virus – a protein on the surface of the virus known as the stem of haemagglutinin – to provoke an immune response.
Unaffordable: The Affordable Care Act is set to price about one in four people out of their “Cadillac” health care plans by 2018, according to the Kaiser Foundation. The so-called Cadillac tax, or high-cost plan tax (HCPT) on employers will impact 30 percent of workers by in 2023 and 42 percent in 2028. The goal of the tax was to help fund the cost of coverage expansion under ObamaCare and discourage employers from offering “overly-generous” benefit plans and help to contain health care spending. Which begs the question: What business is it of government what kind of plan your employer uses to entice you? Find out more here. The 40 percent excise is imposed in 2018 on coverage above $10,200 for an individual and $27,500 for a family.
Quotes of Note
“Doctors walk a web of thin fibers between a patient’s expectations, our honest perceptions, and insurance companies’ requirements. But we do it. We do it because there are times I get to walk into a patient’s room and say, “Good news! We have a diagnosis! You have acute cholecystitis, and you get to get your gallbladder out and in a few days you’ll be feeling so much better!” Kristin Prentiss Ott, MD, “The truth behind why doctors don’t tell the truth.”
“Generations ago, patients were drawn to inexpensive folk remedies, expensive patent medicines, and traveling road shows. The modern parallels are free information on the Internet, ads for expensive prescription drugs on television, and slick smartphone apps. Patients now see a doctor for a one-time encounter online, at an urgent care clinic, or in a Minute Clinic behind a chain drugstore. Enhanced access and convenience, often at lower cost, is the upside. The downside is fragmentation of medical care rendering it an impersonal commodity, where doctors are interchangeable, and patients are widgets on an assembly line.” – Steven Reidbord, MD, “The tension between traditional medical values and expanding commercialism is real”
The Georgia Public Policy Foundation has been doing important work for the free enterprise movement for the past 20 years. I can assure you from the vantage of a non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. with much the same principles as GPPF that the work we do simply would not be possible if it were not for the important work that GPPF does. We see it, we understand it, it is an inspiration to us, it is the kind of thing that will translate into the important work that we can do in Washington, D.C. We thank you very much for that.