Prevention! The Food We Eat

One of the very best things we can do with all of our patients is to have a candid conversation about food.  Seriously!  And I don’t mean, “I’m going to refer you to a nutritionist” kind of conversation but just one that simply outlines very important information about the American diet.  If you are uncomfortable taking the time to focus on this prevention oriented discussion, then print up Mark Bittman’s column, A Food Manifesto for the Future from the New York Times on February 2 and hand it out to patients as they leave your emergency room, your clinic or your practice.  Help your patients take responsibility for their overall health condition simply by thinking about where their food comes from and how it impacts all of us.

If you think I am stretching the content of this blog, and wondering how food can be related to healthcare marketing, think about cooking classes as an added offering for your community outreach as one simple tactic to engage your patients and help them focus on prevention.  Okay…Mr. Bittman’s column is well worth reading in its entirety but I have included some key points below:

The typical American diet is unhealthful and unsafe.

Here are some ideas — frequently discussed, but sadly not yet implemented — that would make the growing, preparation and consumption of food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring:

    • End government subsidies to processed food. We grow more corn for livestock and cars than for humans, and it’s subsidized by more than $3 billion annually; most of it is processed beyond recognition.
    • Begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption. (Think farmers’ markets.)
    • Break up the U.S. Department of Agriculture and empower the Food and Drug Administration. Currently, the U.S.D.A. counts among its missions both expanding markets for agricultural products (like corn and soy!) and providing nutrition education. These goals are at odds with each other…
    • Outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations and encourage the development of sustainable animal husbandry. The concentrated system degrades the environment… and produces tainted meat, poultry, eggs, and, more recently, fish. Sustainable methods of producing meat for consumption exist.
    • At the same time, we must educate and encourage Americans to eat differently.
    • It’s difficult to find a principled nutrition and health expert who doesn’t believe that a largely plant-based diet is the way to promote health and attack chronic diseases.
    • Encourage and subsidize home cooking.  People make better choices when they cook their own food.
    • Tax the marketing and sale of unhealthful foods. Another budget booster. This isn’t nanny-state paternalism but an accepted role of government: public health. If you support seat-belt, tobacco and alcohol laws, sewer systems and traffic lights, you should support legislation curbing the relentless marketing of soda and other foods that are hazardous to our health…

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