Health care reform is a current staple of the news. President Obama is making aggressive attempts to change a system that many feel is broken. Truly, health care is a major issue. Medicare is already in desperate times and may not last another nine years. Health care spending is continually rising, as are insurance premiums. Over half of personal bankruptcies are due to health care costs [Source: Himmelstein]. Both democrats and republicans see the need for change, and change is truly long overdue. Currently, both parties are arguing about how these changes should occur. What will the magic cure be for our broken health care system?
At this point, an observer evaluating our current system would wonder how we ever got in such a mess. We spend over 2.3 trillion dollars annually in health care, yet we rank 37th in health care performance and have an overall rating of 72nd in the world according the World Health Organization. We outspend every other country in the world by thousands of dollars per person, yet we do not even crack the top 30 in health care. Even worse is that our health care is on course to completely bankrupt our country to a point of no return for our children and grandchildren. Current health care costs require insurance to make treatments and tests semi-affordable, yet 45 million Americans are without insurance, 2 million less than eight years ago [Source: Census Bureau].
For better or worse, the solution to health care will probably not come from a genius idea in Washington DC. To ultimately change our current state we will need to change how we grow our food and what food we choose to eat. Yes, we need to fix our food and the farm. The family farm may be the lifeline we need to shock our health care system out of cardiac arrest. How so? By changing how we grow food and changing the resources that are used (perhaps wasted?) in the process. To think of a typical farm usually means to drift to a rural setting where a variety of fruits, vegetables and animals are raised in abundance. In the early 1900’s, the farm would have raised a variety of crops to feed the family. The farm would also use the fields to feed the animals and the animals’ manure to fertilize the crops. This process has changed drastically. Subsidies have encouraged farmers to basically raise one or two crops exclusively (often corn and soy). Farmers now rely on processed fertilizers to treat the fields, and no matter where we live, we rely on fossil fuels to ship our foods back and forth across the country. In addition, our foods have evolved around these surplus crops. From high fructose corn syrup, to the feed given our chicken and cows, corn and soy make up a large part of our daily calories. Animal production uses large scale feedlots to fatten the animals for market, capitalizing on the cheap, subsidized feed available but leading to significant amounts of pollution waste from the animals and the growing need for antibiotics to control infection within these animal feedlot populations.
On the next page, learn how the family farm could be the key to reforming the health care system.