Will the new administration be good for our health? I fervently hope so. This blog is my Wish List for the next 4 years.
The President of the United States is the Chief Executive Officer of one of the biggest businesses on the planet. The President can propose or veto legislation; appoint Supreme Court Justices; and is charged with the buck-stops-here responsibility for a flock of government departments and agencies. We often blame the “bureaucrats”, but the mood is set at the top and filters down. As you may have heard, the new president and his transition team must fill 4,000 federal positions! (A close look at the presidential seal above reveals that I substituted the medical caduceus for the arrows the eagle usually clutches.) Below are some ideas how the leadership could improve our health. In the most general terms, we need health, NOT simply sickness management euphemistically called “health care”. I know I speak for thousands of enlightened service providers.
- Health and Human Services / Surgeon General. These positions set the tone for what receives national attention and research funding (e.g. National Institutes of Health). Please, please see that functional/integrative/naturopathic medical fields are better represented. We need some fresh ideas in those circles about preventing disease and restoring normal balance in our bodies.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Oh boy, this could be a long list. Most importantly, the agency must root out the massive conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry. That would better protect us from harmful or useless drugs. It might also help the FDA with another problem—their automatic deep-seated prejudice against dietary supplements. These feds should also expand the ranges of the Recommended Daily Allowances to cover not simply preventing deficiency, but also promoting optimum function. We need strong FDA screening of medications that are new potentially toxic substances. However, it just doesn’t seem right that so many people must go to Mexico, Cuba and Europe for the most advanced or most natural cancer treatments. And, the FDA should make it much easier for folks on their deathbed to get the treatment of their choice.
- Medicare. The news recently reported that Medicare is going to pay more for preventative treatment…for diabetes. Well, that is a start because diabetes is a very expensive disease. Hopefully, that effort will bear fruit and they will be encouraged to go on to fund true prevention (not the same thing as early detection) for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc. We know more than we are putting into practice. That is so obvious I can’t believe I’m even having to say it.
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It would appear that this agency has teamed up with the FDA to suppress all non-drug forms of prevention and healing of disease. This agency has the power to (and should) go after products that make false claims. However, in the past, it has gone after supplement makers simply for making benefit claims that the FTC thought pushed the boundary of the area reserved for pharmaceuticals. Like the FDA they seem to operate on the theory that only drugs can prevent or treat disease. I wish that would stop. Well, now they are really going too far. The FTC has announced it plans to forbid homeopathic medicines for saying what they are good for unless they go through the whole time-intensive and unbelievably expensive drug approval process. Since the medicines cannot be patented, no company would go that route, because then all their competitors could sell the remedy too. It appears that the FTC wants to eliminate homeopathy.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There is little or no health testing of thousands of the chemicals haphazardly entering our environment. This amounts to a giant uncontrolled health experiment and the public has certainly not given its informed consent. The EPA does warn us of dangers when there is a major chemical spill. But, what about the long term effect of a tiny dose of poison every day on our breakfast cereal? Agricultural glyphosate herbicides are a good example. Those chemicals adversely affect our cells and damage our essential beneficial intestinal microbes. Agencies also need to compare notes. E.g. I talked to the regional head of the EPA who was astonished and horrified to learn that the FDA still allowed mercury to be used in dental fillings.
- Insurance. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will change or collapse. Both political parties seem inclined to keep the useful provisions. Hopefully, interstate competition and some other improvements will bring down the cost. My hope is for better coverage of true preventive measures and less toxic forms of medicine. Adding support for health savings accounts would allow consumers to personalize their treatments and choose safer options. House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy sees the need for more flexibility. I chuckled when he noted that “we have 10,000 diseases and 500 cures”.
- Department of Agriculture (USDA). This agency has a split personality. On the one hand, it is charged with our health as it develops and executes policy on farming, agriculture, and food. But, the flip side is that it is also charged with economics—helping our agricultural industry and its exports be profitable. Obviously, those aims are often in conflict. And sometimes the health aspect gets the yucky end of the stick due to the power of money. It was the USDA that, in response to lobbyists for the grain and processed foods industry, created the stupid food pyramid that has made us a fat and diabetic nation! Splitting this agency up would be a bureaucratic nightmare, but something needs to be done. I’m not the FDA’s biggest fan, but that agency handles a lot of food issues like label requirements, approving ingredient safety and recalls. Maybe FDA should control all nutrition issues.
- Supreme Court / checks and balances. I personally believe that we are safer when the original system is followed: A. Congress writes the laws. B. The Supreme Court doesn’t make policy; it just makes sure existing laws are constitutional. C. The Executive branch doesn’t make laws either, it enforces what Congress passes. The Constitution did not create a federal nanny telling us what to eat. Nor did our founding fathers envision, for example, a requirement that every person be vaccinated against an ever-growing list of maladies. We should be cautious because there seems to be at least subgroups of people that do not do well with immunizations. It may be possible to identify those groups or make vaccines safer or substitute the homeopathic alternatives. However, there cannot be a healthy debate on the topic if dogma is enforced from the top.
Is my list impossible? Maybe, but as this election has shown, anything seems possible. Maybe dreams can come true.