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IS BEING HEALTHY A CIVIC RIGHT?

By Michael Strelcheck

There are many ideological differences in our society today, and one of the biggest and most troubling is the question of “health care” in our communities. This topic has created a sharp political divide in our local and federal governing bodies due to the exploding costs of tending to illness. It’s clear that our society seems to becoming less healthy, not only due to the advancing age of the population, but also to the alarming trend of young people inflicted with serious illness. The opinion of just how far government should go to help those of us less fortunate has raged for many decades and this debate has been exacerbated by the recent legislation of “Obamacare” and its projected costs.

The enactment of the new laws pertaining to health insurance has inspired a diversity of opinions concerning the range of responsibility we, as a society, should be held accountable for. On one side of the argument we have the point that emphasizes the fact that we are a moral and compassionate society and helping others in need is the right thing to do. Conversely, and just as true, we have the opinion that government shouldn’t be held responsible for citizen’s life styles and the conditions those choices bring.

The biggest concern with the situation seems to be centered on the cost health care for all citizens would require. At a time when our nation’s economy is barely expanding and the coffers of government are bare should the national debt be expanded in order to provide this service? Which risk is more dangerous; the jeopardizing of the nation’s collective health and productivity versus the jeopardizing of our nation’s financial future?

The question facing us, as citizens, is clear. Does being a citizen of the United States mean one has the right to health protection, or is having one’s heath insured an entitlement (an unnecessary benefit in a free society)?

If we turn to our Country’s Bill of Rights for definitive answers we find there isn’t any reference to public health. The Bill names and grants the freedoms of worship, speech & press, to bear arms, and to assemble peacefully in public, as well as to petition the government. It also prohibits cruel or unusual punishment and grants the right to a trial by one’s peers, as well as guards the individual from unreasonable searches, arrests & seizures of property. Unfortunately the Bill doesn’t specifically mention the right (or freedom) to be healthy, but it does confirm that people also have rights other than those mentioned in the constitution! I guess it’s up to us to decide if it’s time that “insured health” is a qualified right of a United States Citizen!

Clearly the solution to this situation is difficult, due to the complexity of the issue. Most likely the answer lies in a mix of both personal and community responsibility, for if both would act constructively insured healthcare could be a “right” that wouldn’t be such a financial burden. Here are just a few practical ideas of things that can be done that don’t cost a lot.

In a free society there is always a need for personal responsibility – for who controls one’s life more than themselves?  Perhaps individuals could focus more on preventive activities which would help improve the overall general health of the population. Simple things can make a big difference. Exercise, more rest, less stress, and watch those extra calories. So many people’s ill health starts with unhealthy daily habits.

Maybe the best arena for promotion of good health is at the local community level, for it can reach individuals, where they live, at a personal level. Perhaps a greater effort can be made by communities to educate their citizens as to what is healthy and what isn’t (particularly for their geographical area); focus on providing access to healthier products in local stores; organize special days for neighborhood events that promote healthy activities. Interestingly, recent research has found that people live healthier lives when they have a sense of belonging, and when they feel connected to others – which is what an active community can provide. Local communities are also great at helping its citizens connect to donated or volunteered services that can assist them in health issues. Bottom line is; communities become powerful when there’s involvement, so participate locally in what is going on.

Local government’s responsibility in the area of health is already well established, for its services provide a safety net for individuals in immediate need. But, due to limited funds, it’s hard for local governments to do more without raising taxes, but their services can become more focused on improving standards and healthy competition for health related businesses. Obamacare’s idea to set-up “insurance exchange sites” is a good example of how local government can help citizens find the right type of insurance for their needs, thus lessening the burden on their pocketbooks and lessening their need for public programs.

Lastly, the federal government could set a better tone for the country in general. After all, its purpose is to serve the people and not its own existence. Rather than trying to avoid the issue of helping citizens deal with difficult health concerns, which makes it seem as if it’s blaming people who become ill, making them feel guilty, a more positive action would be to come up with incentive programs that inspire people to get healthy, say, giving a tax break or a cash bonus to those that have improved their health or have stayed healthy.

What ideas do you have to improve health?  Let’s hear from you.

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