Lifestyle diseases are those diseases caused by bad eating habits. While the effects of these diseases have been a major concern for the states and the federal government as a whole, proper mechanisms to address the issue have not been put in place. These lifestyle diseases have become the main cause of deaths today. Therefore important an amicable solution is reqiured to address this issue in both the short term and long term. Mark Bittman in his article, “Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables” in the Sunday Review of the New York Times provides a deep analysis of solution to food related diseases. The ideas by Bittman not only seem implementable but also have long term gains in terms of health, budget and food access and the environmental protection. This paper gives an insight into the most beneficial issues that have influenced me to support Bittman’s ideas.
According to research, health related obesity costs are expected to plummet to $344 billion by 2018. Other diseases like Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases have not been factored in these costs. The federal government will fund approximately sixty percent of these costs. Health-related obesity costs are projected to reach $344 billion by 2018 — with roughly 60 percent of that cost borne by the federal government (Bittman, "Tax Soda, Subsidize Vegetables, 2011). This places a heavy burden on the government spending and puts the nation in a very risky situation in terms of health. The blame goes to the Standardized American Diet, a program encouraging the consumption of hyper processed foods, drinks and junk foods that have time and again been classified as unhealthy foods. The increasing rate of consumption of animal products among the population has also had great negative impacts on health state.
The food manufacturing industries are targeting more and more profits with little concern about the health impacts the foods have on the population. While the net taxes accrued form the manufacturing companies help run the operations of the federal government, in the long run the consumption of these products will cause a nightmare to the government. Therefore the government should take issue with the long term effects as opposed to the current incentives that it gains from the sale of these foods. If the benefits accrued today will lead to an unhealthy nation in the future, it is the high time the government foregoes those benefits.
Taxing these foods will result to decreased consumption of these foods but only if there are alternatives. These alternatives must be cheaper and readily available. To ensure this, the government needs will be require to use the accrued taxes from the hyper processed foods to fund projects that will ensure a continuum in supply of the alternative foods which in this case refer to staple foods. The accrued revenues from taxes should be put into use to fund the production of these staple foods. This funding involves providing capital investment for farmers who engage in the production while also subsidizing the farm inputs to ensure farmers. This reduces the costs incurred by farmers and thereby increasing the profits which serve as motivation for others to engage in the production of staple foods. This will have two impacts; firstly, the reduced price of these foods due to increased supply and secondly, increased consumption of these foods as they will be cheaper than the hyper processed foods.
A similar approach should be adopted in the research sector. Currently, experts and researchers in the food industry are more concerned about researching on processed foods because much of their funding comes from the food manufacturing companies. The research delves more on the success rate of the products rather than its effects on the public health. In this perspective, the government will have to fund more research that will not only show the overall cost benefits of consumption of staple foods but also determine how to maintain a stable supply to avoid the public from reverting to the processed foods. It should also come with strategies to ensure that the staple foods are available to the population at any particular instance of time and place. Bittman (2011) suggests a particular way in which this availability can be ensured; “We could sell those staples cheap — let’s say for 50 cents a pound — and almost everywhere: drugstores, street corners, convenience stores, bodegas, supermarkets, liquor stores, even schools, libraries and other community centers.”
The concern is more about the choice for foods for the younger generation too. Failure to safeguard this generation in terms of health posses a greater risk to the nation and the future looks dull as more and more cases of chronic diseases brought about by poor feeding manifest themselves. Initiatives like the one adopted on the marketing of foods for kids need to be adopted but this time, focusing on the elimination of manufactured food for the young generation. “The Initiative is a voluntary self-regulation program comprising many of the nation's largest food and beverage companies. The Initiative is designed to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles” (Siegel, "Industry’s “Self-Regulation” of Children’s Food Advertising.", 2011).
This initiative was a self regulation program by the industry sector through the Council of Better Business Bureaus. These policies will only be implementable in the presence of political good will. Therefore, the legislature in collaboration with the executive must show its will to safeguard the nation’s health. “The benefits are staggering, and though it would take a level of political will that’s rarely seen, it’s hardly a moonshot” (Bittman, "Tax Soda, Subsidize Vegetables, 2011).
The net results will be huge. The population will be healthier. The overall cost incurred by the government on food related health issues will decrease. Bittman sums these two benefits with a great deal of evidence from research. He says, “A 20 percent increase in the price of sugary drinks nationally could result in about a 20 percent decrease in consumption, which in the next decade could prevent 1.5 million Americans from becoming obese and 400,000 cases of diabetes, saving about $30 billion”. These saved costs can be directed to other development projects in the government. Managing a healthy nation would be a far much easier task by the government and the strain on the budget would be eliminated. “Putting all of those elements together could create a national program that would make progress on a half-dozen problems at once — disease, budget, health care, environment, food access and more — while paying for itself..” (Bittman, "Tax Soda, Subsidize Vegetables, 2011).
Bittman, Mark. "Tax Soda, Subsidize Vegetables - NYTimes.com." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. The New York Times, 23 July 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/opinion/sunday/24bittman.html?pagewanted=all>.
Siegel, Bettina E. "Fox Guards Henhouse: Industry’s “Self-Regulation” of Children’s Food Advertising." The Lunch Tray. Council of Better Business Bureaus, 25 Jan. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. <http://www.thelunchtray.com/fox-guards-henhouse-industrys-self-regulation-of-childrens-food-advertising/>.