Over the past week, I have been watching the HBO series, ‘Weight of the Nation.’ I have been truly astounded by the results of that programming.
But watching the documentary crystalizes thought on the recent congressional legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare. Opposition to the ACA has some interesting comments, tending to look at what happens if the ACA is found constitutional. Some of the broader points include:
- There will be no end to the gloating;
- Government will be able to mandate anything they desire; and
- Government gets deeper and deeper into average citizen’s financial pocket and life.
All of the above may be true, but none of the above directly resolves the health issues the ACA is trying to resolve. Without trying to over support the HBO documentary, it is clear that a third (⅓) of the nation or less is at a healthy weight. Additionally, historically, while obesity rates in all economic classes continue to rise, the nation’s poor suffer the most malnutrition and excess weight. The obesity rates of children households of poor are catastrophically high.
Poor neighborhoods have less access to nutritious food. Marketing and production of the nation’s food chain is the most profitable ever. But a significant amount of the food delivered is processed, meaning they have been altered from their natural state, either for safety reasons or for convenience. The methods used include canning, freezing, refrigeration, dehydration and aseptic processing. Many of these bad ones are made with trans-fats, saturated fats, and large amounts of sodium and sugar.
While I cannot argue about the merits that in some cases the government can extend its reach too far, there is very little discussion about the impact of eliminating the ACA. For those who attest that diet is a personal choice, they are not incorrect. But given the totality of the medical problems we all must face, it is only by government regulation that we can solve problems collectively versus trying to solve problems locally. Containment of tobacco use is such an example.
Catching an old rerun of the original Star Trek, First Officer Spock once said, “… logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Beating back obesity and its effects on the nation, future business production and healthcare costs is tantamount to our country’s survival. From a Buddhist perspective, I would state that Good health is simply the slowest way a human being can die.
When the Buddha was young, he learned the science of medicine. He became knowledgeable about the nature and cure of diseases. The Buddha’s realization of the perpetual cycle of rebirth and the stages of aging, illness, and death, enabled him to guide others to live a healthy life.
His pragmatic approach includes the insistence on proper hygiene and medicine, but more to the point, he never resorted to what might be considered “faith healing.” Instead, he offered rational, practical instruction for dealing with both physical injury and mental illness.
The American born Bhikshu Kusala Bhikshu once told this story:
“There is a story about an Indian king on the battlefield shot through the chest with an arrow. The medic ran to his side, prepared to pull out the arrow. The king said, “No, not yet. I need to know from what caste the archer came, what type of feathers were used, and who made the bow.” The medic said, “If we take the time needed to answer those questions, you will die.”
When we work together, Buddhist, Catholic, Atheist, Republican, Democrat or Tea-Party, the patient will have a greater sense of acceptance, be encouraged to focus on both mind and body, and in the process to transcend pain and avoid future suffering.
But we can only do that if we work together.