31 July 2009

Quick Hits: Health Edition

No More Mosquito Spray - While this was indeed a risky experiment, this is absolutely amazing. Researchers in Europe actually used mosquitoes as "flying vaccinators" to prevent and immunize people from the very malaria they spread. It is still sad that a disease that is mostly gone from industrialized societies still kills so many people in societies that aren't. This is the kind of outside the box thinking that leads to good outcomes.

Have a Coke and a Tax - Here we go again with the nanny state. Lawmakers looking for additional sources of revenue, and seeking ways to legislate better health choices, now want to tax soft drinks and other "sugary" food items to magically transform Americans into models of health.

The article states, "A soda tax would not only help Americans to slim down but could raise revenues that would help to offset the rising sums spent to treat preventable health conditions caused by obesity." Simply not true. Typical politispeak to justify their legislative actions. No similar effort has ever resulted in Americans making better health decisions. Otherwise, many health issues would have been eradicated by high taxes long ago.

The article also quotes New York's Health Commissioner as crediting taxation as the reason smoking rates have dropped. Ever think that people just realize it's a nasty habit, Commish? His validation is incredibly misguided and pure conjecture made to maintain outrageous taxes.

There is no argument that obesity is an epidemic in this country that has far-reaching ramifications on healthcare (imagine what it will do to the public option!). However, as I've heard recently, a tax never made anyone healthy. Look at cigarettes. Taxes continually go up to pay for health programs, but people continue to smoke. It simply doesn't work.

While lawmakers hide their insatiable thirst for more money behind noble causes like making people healthy, they are ignoring the root causes of the obesity crisis. There are few, if any, effective education programs in schools and communities that encourage people to make good choices in food and diet. Marketing by food companies and fast food restaurants have made it easy for people to rationalize their decisions. I won't go into the need to make the nutritional information by restaurants more prominent, but couple that with promoting the benefits of engaging in physical activity, and you've got one heck of a start.

The fact of the matter is that taxing Americans does not change behavior. It never has. So, this is more of the same from elected officials looking to position themselves as protectors of the public good. But until they decide to do something that makes people personally responsible for their own decisions, nothing is going to change except the price at the Coke machine.


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