While the nation continues to search for a way to resolve the healthcare crisis, I am convinced the answer lies in making sure every child in the country has good pediatric care. Other than selecting your own grandparents for their longevity genes, getting good healthcare in the first two decades of life is the best way to improve your odds of beating your actuarial table.
Let me explain.
The growth and development of a healthy child require fresh air and water, a balanced diet, time to play, plenty of sleep and a safe environment. Adequate immunization and education seal the deal.
Accidents are the only leading cause of death in the U.S. (at number 5) that are not completely preventable, but virtually all of the others are. Diet plays a major role in each of the top three causes of death while smoking controls the fourth:
1. Heart disease
3. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
So as I see it, the single best way to topple this country's runaway healthcare costs is to make sure every child has an adequate diet throughout childhood and adolescence. Establishing healthy eating habits at an early age is the best way to insure those habits will continue for the rest of one's life and continue to protect one's health. Trying to change poor eating habits in adulthood is far more difficult.
Pediatric healthcare providers have a distinct advantage when it comes to promoting good nutrition to their patients because the nutritional needs of children are remarkably the same around the world. They need foods of the right consistency, variety and quantity to thrive, yet no single food other than breast milk is universally found in the diets of children. Their undeveloped palates are open to experiencing and enjoying many new tastes and textures if regularly introduced, so there is no need to create special foods and menus just for kids.
To prevent overeating children should not receive external pressures to consume more than they want. Instead they should be allowed to respond to their internal cues of hunger and satiety. The same is true about eating for other external reasons, such as when food is used as a reward or to meet emotional needs. When these inappropriate relationships with food are not encouraged, children learn to eat for the right reasons and avoid the "food issues" that lead so many people to overeat today.
It almost sounds too simple to be true, but "you are what you eat." The sooner in life we get that right, the better off we'll all be.
For more about healthy eating habits read: