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
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
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
5) Keep immunizations up to
6) Respect yourself and each
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).