Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Next Chapter

I've been blogging here for several years almost entirely under the Cybercise heading. My blogging volume has decreased of late due, in part, to my attempt to restrict this blog to Cybercise related topics. Doing so made me feel, well, restricted. All of who I am and what I'm working on is wrapped up not only in Cybercise but also in my consulting firm, Market Strategies, and my new book series, Move.Eat.Be., and the newest exciting thing I'll announce in a few months. All of my work is centered in one area: Improving Healthcare.

Doing so happens in various ways: Some of the very exciting consulting projects and programs I'm designing in the public sector. Cybercise and helping people get more exercise. Move.Eat.Be. and helping people find their own personalized approach to sustainable wellness. The Real Food Label project to help people make better food choices. I'm one of those people who thrives on having lots of  interesting stuff going on all at the same time.

Fixing our healthcare system isn't a "one walk dog." In other words, there isn't one single thing we should, or even could do, to fix our healthcare system. We need to do lots and, in my own small way, I'm moving lots of pieces around and are all related. The healthcare system itself needs to change. Our focus on "disease care" and "test and drug" is unsustainable and it doesn't help people stay healthy. The food system, farm policy, our education approach, special interests and politics is a huge mess which has a direct impact on people's ability to eat well on a budget. Our culture of "busyness" has driven us out of our kitchens and into the drive thru. We've forgotten the joy of a walk after dinner, climbing a tree and playing sports and we spend way too much time in front of a screen of one sort or another.

Ultimately, I'm working to create a national self care system where each of us has access to the tools, support and community to live long, healthy, and fulfilling lives. When people are healthy there will be enough providers and money in our disease care system to take care of people when they're sick. Plus, hopefully everyone will be happier and feel better.

Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Lunchbox Patdown

An article on Huffington Post today described a recent incident where a 4-year old's lunch was inspected by the USDA and deemed "not nutritious enough" forcing the child to eat school supplied chicken nuggets instead.

I want to rant, really I do. And, doing so may not further the conversation so let's look at this for a moment. A few thoughts:

  1. Does anyone at the USDA actually have children? (Yes, wee rant there). Every parent knows our kids go through weird food phases. I don't care how health conscious, organic, local-focused and wealthy you are, sometimes your kids will only eat one thing and one thing only. My son, now 23, went through a "ham sandwich" phase which actually didn't include any ham. White bread and mayonnaise. I wasn't happy about it, but I used it as a teaching moment (you can have your ham sandwich when you eat these banana slices - come on parents, half the job comes down to these moments). 
  2. Did we need another way to further the phobia that "Government People Are Bad?" We already malign the people who work at the TSA, many teachers are not respected and police? In some urban areas, they are feared. Apparently we're not getting to kids early enough to teach them to fear public servants, now we have to take a 4-year old's lunch away? That poor little girl. 
  3. USDA Meal Guidelines are not right for everyone. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but following the USDA guidelines would make a fair number of Americans sick. Dairy (in the form of  overly processed milk from cows dining on drugs and hormones), gluten run amok, GMO grains? Our kids (and we) deserve better.
  4. Cheap does not equal good. The food supplied to school cafeteria's is done by through the award of competitive contracts. Low cost almost always wins. The people who win these contracts are incentivized to deliver the cheapest food that meets the minimum USDA guidelines. Are our kids eating sustainably raised, grass fed beef? Chickens who graze on bugs? No! They are eating the worst of the worst of the processed food system. The food is cheap and pumped with chemicals so it lasts a long time on a shelf. As a side note... there is a company, Revolution Foods, who are focused on doing better. There may be others I'm unaware of, please share if you know of them.
I could go on... but you get the idea. To round out the discussion, let's consider one defense of the idea of inspecting brought from home lunches: Some lunches brought from home are actually worse than what the cafeteria provides. I don't have data or numbers, but having been a parent and visiting during lunchtime, I can assure you some kids have soda and a snack cake in their lunchbox. 

What are we to do? Let's start with education! I know! A crazy idea considering we are talking about our schools here. Unfortunately, we have many parents and many kids who really don't know what a nutritious lunch looks like. We have taken much of the food and health education out of our schools in favor of the programs for "No Child Left Behind" so we have an absence of knowledge. How about bringing these classes back (and inviting parents) so we all learn together what makes for healthy eating? How about we recognize that there isn't a one-size-fits-all diet for every person in this country? How about we consider lunch as only one part of a day full of healthy eating? If I've had a big breakfast, I might not want a big lunch. Can we bring some humanity back into this? How about we use lunch as a teaching moment instead of a lunchbox patdown exercise. Just a thought...