House Call


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


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).





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