Instead of debating who should pay for all this, no one is asking the far more simple and imperative question: What is making us so sick, and how can we reverse this so we need less health care? The answer is staring us in the face, on average three times a day: our food.
Poor diet is the leading cause of mortality in the United States, causing more than half a million deaths per year. Just 10 dietary factors are estimated to cause nearly 1,000 deaths every day from heart disease, stroke and diabetes alone. These conditions are dizzyingly expensive. Cardiovascular disease costs $351 billion annually in health care spending and lost productivity, while diabetes costs $327 billion annually. The total economic cost of obesity is estimated at $1.72 trillion per year, or 9.3 percent of gross domestic product.
These human and economic costs are leading drivers of ever-rising health care spending, strangled government budgets, diminished competitiveness of American business and reduced military readiness.
Fortunately, advances in nutrition science and policy now provide a road map for addressing this national nutrition crisis. The “Food Is Medicine” solutions are win-win, promoting better well-being, lower health care costs, greater sustainability, reduced disparities among population groups, improved economic competitiveness and greater national security.