Musing Over The Details

In my Facebook feed this morning a professor of nursing commented on a post by George Will, opinion writer for the Washington Post. The title of Will’s piece, “Better health through good choices”, echoes a strong sentiment felt by many: that our overall health is under our direct control. Buried, however, in his text is a simple phrase about our capacity to make those choices: “Certainly one lesson of the past 50 years is that one of the most cost-effective things government does is disseminate public health information concerning behaviors as disparate as smoking and using seat belts.”

Where does that “public health information” come from? Take a moment to think about the huge amount of human investment which goes into researching these fundamental issues which affect all of us. Think further about the forces aligned against dissemination of that research (if you haven’t yet watched “Thank You For Smoking” I strongly encourage you to do so). And think about the time, energy and money that goes into attempting to educate us about factors which directly impact the health and well-being of ourselves and our families. Of the 2.6 TRILLION dollars spent on health care in the US in 2010, 3.1% went to public health efforts. If Mr. Will is right, and our ability to “make good choices” is both a major factor in our health AND a direct consequence of public health outreach, imagine what we could achieve if we chose to invest more of our dollars in basic research and effective education. 

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