and Robert Weissman
Recently, we have become friends with Matt Hahn, a young medical doctor who lives in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.
Dr. Hahn is a conventional doctor in many ways -- his clinic is littered with little notepads supplied by drug companies, and he treats patients with conventional medicines.
But Dr. Hahn's practice is unconventional in many others.
He is a firm believer in preventive medicine. He realizes that much of the population is overweight and out of shape because of poor diet, too much drinking, smoking and abuse of drugs, and not enough exercise.
He does house calls -- for those of you too young to remember, that's where, if the patient can't go and see the doctor, the doctor goes and sees the patient at the patient's house.
And he's not hostile to alternative medicine.
In the spring, he wants to start a "walk with the doctor" program, where he'll take his patients out for a walk on the C&O Canal, which borders his clinic.
He has crafted a common sense six-point preventive health plan that, if implemented, would shut down much of our junk economy.
Our society -- from television, to the schools, to public libraries, to the internet -- has been so overrun by commercial values that sometimes we feel the only way to protect children from the commercialism that entices them to eat junk food and abuse their bodies with drugs is to rip-out the corporate I.V. tube.
In its place, we would plug in Dr. Hahn's I.V. tube, through which he would deliver these six important points:
1) Eat a healthy diet -- eat more fruits and vegetables, but eat less food overall.
2) Exercise every day.
3) Say no to tobacco, drugs and excessive alcohol.
4) Be safe -- wear seatbelts and helmets. Don't drink and drive. Practice safe sex. (We've heard Dr. Hahn give his graphic talk on sexually transmitted diseases. Believe us, he doesn't -- and doesn't have to -- use the word "abstain.") Steer clear of weapons and violence.
5) Keep immunizations up to date.
6) Respect yourself and each other.
We're not saying Dr. Hahn's six points are the be and end all of public health. Some in our community want to add -- turn off the television and computers. Others say that we've gone overboard on immunizations. Some want urge a crack down on polluters. Even Dr. Hahn is considering a point seven -- get enough sleep.
But it's time we turned to our neighbors and friends, and professionals like Dr. Hahn, whom we instinctively trust more than we trust the television and cable networks. We like the idea that Dr. Hahn is taking his preventive health program into the public school system. Our children need to hear the truth about prevention.
It is absolutely clear that from junk food, to tobacco, alcohol and drugs, to sedentary lifestyles, children are getting the wrong message. And the states are bearing the burden of cleaning up the mess.
Last week, we were at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. and ran into Joseph Califano, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Carter. Califano is now the president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York City.
Califano was in Washington, D.C. to release the findings of a three-year study revealing that the states are spending a full 13 percent of their budgets ($81.3 billion of the total $620 billion in state spending) on cleaning up the aftermath of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse. Even taking into account how the self-inflicted costs of the drug war inflate the figure, the total is staggering -- and it doesn't even include local or federal expenditures.
"Substance abuse and addiction is the elephant in the living room of state government, creating havoc with service systems, causing illness, injury and death and consuming increasing amounts of state resources," Califano said.
Califano called the policy of "shoveling up" the wreckage of abuse "insane," and called on the states to instead implement a policy of prevention and treatment.
And of course, it's not just alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
Americans are way overweight. The Centers for Disease Control reported last month that diabetes in the United States rose about six percent in 1999. The CDC blamed the increase in diabetes largely on obesity, which is up an astounding 57 percent from 1991.
According to the CDC, the share of the adult population diagnosed with diabetes rose from 6.5 percent in 1998 to 6.9 percent in 1999. The obesity rate rose from 12 percent in 1991 to about 20 percent in 1999.
Americans have been lulled into a sedentary and abusive lifestyle -- watching television, eating junk food, drinking sugared water drinks, abusing tobacco and alcohol. Today, for example, the average American consumes 600 12-ounce cans of soda a year. Each can contains an average of 10 teaspoons of sugar.
We have met the enemy -- and it is these giant corporations that have poisoned our collective well. It's time we band together, unplug from the corporate system, and plug in a comprehensive preventative health program.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999).