Friday, February 5, 2010

For Everyone's Sake

I was perusing the New York Times website today when the following article in their Personal Health section caught my eye: Rules Worth Following, for Everyone’s Sake.

I confess it was the part that came after the comma that intrigued me, and after clicking on the article, I was not disappointed.

You can read it for yourself, but it is essentially a book review that discusses the same sorts of things we've been hearing ad nauseum, how our western diet isn't good for us, how it leads to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. You know the litany.

In addition, it being the New York Times, you won't be surprised to learn it's also served up with a heaping helping of self-righteousness, like this doozy: I, for one, have been writing and speaking about them for decades.

But it was the eighth paragraph that proved my instinct correct, where I stumbled upon this tidbit:

I will add a third reason: our economy cannot afford to continue to patch up the millions of people who each year develop a diet-related ailment.

On the face of it, it makes sense. The things we do that are deleterious to our own health also affect others in lots of ways, such as lost work, shorter lifetimes, higher insurance rates, etc.

But it occurs to me there are a number of other activities that also contribute to these things, and you don't hear them talked about much in conjunction with self-righteous articles like the above, or indeed even in the recent health-care debate.

For example, I was reading about that snowboarder who suffered the horrific brain injury out west and wondered what his insurance situation was, what all the snowboarders, skiers, snowmobilers, and those who engage in these risky activities insurance situation is.

Now, I'm not a skier, therefore the risk of me being injured in winter sports is minimal. Nevertheless, am I in the same insurance pool as skiers? Should they be made to pay more?

And more to the point: Should our economy continue to "patch them up" when they suffer from the negative results of their own choices?

We've also had a number of horrific motorcycle accidents near where I live recently, a state with no helmet law I might add. Now, I don't ride a motorcycle. But am I in the same insurance pool as those who do? Am I subsidizing motorcyclists and skiers and snowboarders and every other sort of risky behavior that folks engage in for "fun"?

Of course I am.

But you don't hear people assailing these inherently risky behaviors in the same way that you hear people assailing smokers or the obese.

And you don't read snarky articles in the New York Times about how our society "cannot afford to continue to patch up the millions of people who each year" engage in such risky behavior.

I wonder why that is.

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