In today’s fall of 2010, one in ten families without health insurance had no health coverage. No health coverage represents an unacceptable risk for any household. With health care costs rising rapidly, it is essential for everyone to have some form of health coverage. The sad fact is that many Americans (including many who are in their 30’s) are without health insurance and many more have low-quality policies that they either cannot afford or do not want to pay for. Worse still, many families are paying too much for their health care coverage to be worthwhile. Health care costs have spiraled out of control.
As a result of our collapsing economy, millions of uninsured Americans have been forced into the position of being “catapulted” into poverty by their lack of health insurance coverage. While there has been much discussion about the potential stimulus package to rein in health care costs, there is no question that this package will not help those of us without health insurance and is largely a transfer of wealth from sick people to healthy individuals. For all of this to work, we must have the resources to address the crisis of mental health care separately and collectively.
The first step towards addressing the issue of poor health insurance is to stop paying attention to the media. In the Fall of 2010 there was a very large media focus on three mentally ill young men from Florida who died from untreated heart problems. Their story was quickly spread across the media and online via social media platforms such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. This tragic story had a profound effect on the public and generated a lot of commentary.
I would like to discuss the negative impact that this story had on the public and families such as mine. A parent should not have to endure the constant barrage of negative commentary that can accompany even the most newsworthy event. Even when parents are actively working to provide quality child care, it is not enough. I am writing this article as a reminder that this country has room for improvements in how communities respond to these kinds of situations. Our kids do not belong to our government or our media, but their health does belong to us and they need to be protected.
It is time to stop listening to what the mass media is trying to sell to us. If there were an outbreak of bed-sores and major health concerns among our children in the Spring of 2009, why did nothing happen? Surely something could have been done to address this issue, but somehow it just went away. I ask myself why this just cannot be true. We have to start looking at this from another perspective, one of public health.
The second step is to invest in early learning and development with our kids. This is important because this is a skill set that will be used throughout life. There are many ways that we can invest in our family child care and early learning. This includes money, time and organization.
The third step is to develop programs that work with our kids and teens. There are many research and development programs available that are focused on training our kids and teens in healthy behaviors. These programs are also critical in developing healthy lifestyles. One of the most important areas of all is childhood obesity. This epidemic is directly related to the lack of a good early learning and behavioral health care system.
In short, we can make sure that a healthy nation has the resources to deal with an upcoming epidemic, but we must first address the issues that caused the crisis in the first place. Our culture does not focus on proper nutrition and physical activity, which is the number one preventable cause of childhood obesity. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. It is time to take this crisis head on and create policies and programs that address both the problem and its causes. If the United States has not learned by now, it will be blindsided by the ramifications of ignoring these critical issues.