Radley Balko elaborates on the idea of personal responsibility, in his article, “What You Eat Is Your Business”, by arguing that the government should stay out of peoples’ health choices and instead, let them take ownership for their own well-being when it comes to their diet. He argues that obesity shouldn’t be considered a public health issue and the government may be covering too much expenses on treating health problems that come along with obesity. It has become common today to dismiss the ongoing health problems in Americans who are obese. Why is it easier to “pass the buck”, as some would say, instead of taking some responsibility? I believe that Radley Balko is correct, there is a need for incentives to help people start taking some responsibility about what they eat and stop depending on the government to solve their health problems.
Too many people look to the healthcare system to pay for solutions to problems caused by their own poor eating habits. Balko states a strong point, “The best way to alleviate the obesity public health crisis is to remove obesity from the realm of public health.” (Balko, 468). So many people choose to eat poorly by consuming fast food just because they believe it is cheaper and faster than buying or cooking a healthy meal. It is this belief that eventually affects them later down the road by causing them health problems. But who cares, after all the government pays for all the medicine and treatment needed to stay alive. Right? Balko then incites, “If policymakers want to fight obesity, they’ll halt the creeping socialization of medicine, and move to return individual Americans’ ownership of their own health and well-being back to individual Americans.” (Balko, 468). The reality is that eating healthy is not slower or more expensive than eating unhealthy is, it all comes back to personal responsibility. It’s a choice to eat healthy. If you take the time to budget your money that you spend on food and also do some research, then you would come to realize that you could eat healthy for the same and maybe even less price than you do eating unhealthy.
In Freedman’s article “How Junk Food Can End Obesity”, he tells a short story about his personal experience with trying to eat healthier. He found a juice at a vegan restaurant that was low in calories but high in cost and wait time. He then compared that juice to a smoothie he bought on a different day at McDonald’s for just three dollars in their popular fast drive-thru. He thought, “If only the McDonald’s smoothie weren’t, unlike the first two, so fattening and unhealthy.” (Freedman, 507). What Freedman failed to realize, is that with just a little more effort, he could have easily made a similar smoothie for fewer calories in his very own kitchen. He, like so many Americans, chose to take the unhealthy route because he believed it was more convenient.
While I too fell under the category that most Americans do, laziness and lacking personal responsibility, I did eventually recognize it. Most of the time, it was easier and cheaper for me to buy an unhealthy fast food meal, or so I thought. Recently, I started wondering where all my money was going. When I looked at my bank statement, I noticed just how much that five-dollar coffee from Starbucks every morning and that five-dollar burrito for lunch added up. So, I tried to take some personal responsibility by creating a budget for my daily food and doing some research about where I could get the best deals at. I started to shop at Aldi’s, a supermarket near my house that apparently had better prices than Stater Bros, where I used to shop. As a result, not only did I save money, I was eating much more healthier and I even lost some of my weight that I had gained after giving birth to my daughter. This was only possible because I took the time to do my research and was cooking my own meals daily.
I later shared my experience with my father, who happens to unfortunately live with diabetes and always argues to his own defense that fast food is easier and cheaper. If only I could have taken a picture of his face when I told him how great I was eating and feeling! I know that it at least got him thinking, I could see it on his face, but then again why should he care anyways? Considering the facts, he has lived with diabetes for so long and with the government covering his costs for all the medicine he takes, what does he have to lose? My father still did not see the point in taking some responsibility about his eating habits and health. Just as Balko argued in his article, there needs to be an incentive for people, such as my father, to help them take some personal responsibility.
Which brings me to the incentives Balko mentions in his article. He argues that obesity shouldn’t be considered in public health, but suggests an alternative. “Congress should also increase access to medical and health savings accounts, which gives consumers the option of rolling money reserved for health care into a retirement account.” (Balko, 469). Radley Balko’s theory about having an incentive such as medical and health savings accounts with funds that can contribute to your retirement account, would be extremely useful because it sheds light on the issue that people keep receiving medicine for their health problems, problems which wouldn’t exist if they would just care a little more about what they eat.
Anyone familiar with diabetes may agree that, if the government limited their access to healthcare funds and gave them the option for roll back money to be given to their personal retirement account as a reward for being healthy, it would make them rethink about buying that five-dollar cheeseburger for lunch. It is human nature to look for the easy way out, but let’s face it, when we see that we can receive a reward, we tend to make different decisions. Therefore, lowering peoples’ healthcare access to treat curable health problems and instead giving them an incentive to eat healthier, will cause Americans to start taking some responsibility for their choices in regards to their dieting and health.
Balko, Radley. “What You Eat Is Your Business.” They Say, I Say 2016 Mla Update. N.p.: Turtleback, 2016. N. pag. Print.
Freedman, David. “How Junk Food Can End Obesity.” They Say, I Say 2016 Mla Update. N.p.: Turtleback, 2016. N. pag. Print.
Caldwell, Deborah. “Change Your Health (and Life) in 6 Simple Steps.” The Huffington Post, 6 Feb. 2015, images.huffingtonpost.com/2014-12-03-HealthyLife.jpg. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.
Wells, Sharon. “Managing Your Diabetes: Everything You Need To Know.” My Meds Price List, 3 July 2015, http://www.mymedspricelist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/diabetes-1.png. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.
Steen, Juliette. “Forget Everything, This Is What A ‘Healthy Diet’ Means.” Huffington Post Australia, The Huffington Post, 14 July 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/06/26/forget-everything-this-is-what-a-healthy-diet-means/. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.