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Is Our American Culture Sick?

Posted on | November 30, 2017 | No Comments

Mike Magee

Yesterday, for the first time ever, a UK Prime Minister openly criticized an American President. But is the problem just Trump, or is it our American culture?

Earlier last month, conservative columnist, David Brooks, in the New York Times, suggested as much when he wrote, “The first step in launching our own revival is understanding that the problem is down in the roots.”

A week or so ago, I dialed in to an invitation-only teleconference to hear David Blumenthal and his colleagues share the latest embargoed results from the Commonwealth Fund’s study on U.S. Senior Health comparisons to 10 other developed nations.

By now you know the results  – we didn’t fare well. Even though Medicare is supposed to provide de-facto universal coverage for Americans over 65, our seniors experience higher health care costs, higher out-of-pocket costs, and poorer access to coordinate social services.

Hearing this, I asked whether these results point the finger at the American culture itself. In short, are we sick because our culture is sick? Dr. Blumenthal left open this possibility, but said that we couldn’t begin to tease out the answer until we first corrected Medicare’s obvious existing short falls.

But this “chicken or egg” dilemma seems more an excuse at this point than an explanation. Our culture is so blatant in its disrespect for human and planetary health that it’s simply hard to ignore any longer.

Our’s is a country that not only allows and promotes guns, but also now limits federally funded research on gun violence and has attempted to muzzle physicians who wish to discuss gun safety with their patients. There were 36,161 motor vehicle crash deaths in 2015. That’s bad, but it’s 91 fewer deaths than caused by guns that year. We’re killing 100 people a day with our guns, 60% of which are suicides – successful 90% of the time when a gun is the instrument.

As for planetary health, we just marked the 25th anniversary of the landmark “Warning to Humanity”, a consensus document filed by 1,700 scientists on global warming. Trump’s pull-out of the Paris Accord aside, the group now 15,000 scientists strong from 184 countries, just published an update in the journal BioScience. Lead scientist, Henry Kendall, states, “If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.”

Finally, we learn this week that futurists now predict that the obesity rate in today’s children, when they hit adulthood, will be 57%. And with this, soaring rates of diabetes and heart disease surely follow, while health resources are diverted to elusive “scientific progress” as American “human progress” continues in steep decline. Not unrelated, we also learned this month that the Sugar Research Foundation in 1965 secretly funded a NEJM review which “discounted evidence linking sucrose consumption to blood lipid levels and hence coronary artery disease.”

Of course, the list goes on – consider the mind-boggling short and long-term implications of what appears endemic sexual abuse in and out of our workplaces. And that doesn’t even begin to address the fact that we seem to have managed to elect as our president a man who is a confessed serial sexual abuser who’s mental health is increasingly being called into question.

On the positive side, we have finally broken our “blame and shame” the victim mentality on rampant sexual abuse. Women are coming forward and being believed. New empowerment and transparency clearly is the way back to mutual respect and opportunity for all.

Truth-telling is also the remedy for our declining national health. A real “land of the free and home of the brave” demands a culture that supports the asking and answering of one simple question, “How do we make America and all Americans healthy again?”

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