The long awaited (and much needed) start to summer did little to stop many of our loyal readers from sending in their thoughts on everything from nutrition to civil rights to technology. So, without further ado, let’s dip into the H&HN Daily mailbag.
Managing Editor Bill Santmour earlier this week lamented that the House Appropriations Committee approved legislation that would seemingly reverse course on efforts to make school lunches more healthful. Well, that inspired some passionate responses, including one from Charles Cholet, who questioned Bill’s culinary knowledge:
I can tell by Mr. Santamour's confusion that he does not do the shopping and food preparation in his household. The cost of buying, preparing and storing fresh wholesome foods is indeed more costly. It is significantly cheaper to open a big can of Spaghetti-Os than it is to prepare a similar pasta meal from scratch. The same is true for chicken nuggets over fresh skinless chicken breasts and pretty much any other meal you'd care to prepare. Add in the additional staff food preparation time and the additional storage costs and waste due to shorter shelf life and it's very easy to see the cost difference. Combine that with a highly culturally diverse population and it is obvious why it is so difficult to provide a nutritionally balanced meal to every child in every school. I assume he has never had to get a finicky child to eat his or her vegetables or finish a meal. It is not as simple as just providing "nutritional" meals and assuming the children will happily change their eating habits and preferences.
You can't just mandate good eating habits. You can lead children to tofu but you can't make them eat it (or like it).
Perhaps we should ban large sugar-filled soft drinks and super-sized, sodium-laden, fat-drenched meals.
Oh, wait. We tried that. It didn't work.
That's really not that hard to understand.
Another reader, going by Uglytrout, had this to say:
How many years have we been feeding people at school? Any real improvement made? These kids are not going to avoid poor food choices. Kids today, actually almost all Americans, refuse to take any responsibility for their actions and would instead like to pass the blame to anything but the human. No program is going to change that, and I would argue that it is exactly the nanny state, do-gooder programs we've been forcing upon people over the last 40 years that are responsible for the complete lack of responsibility we see today. Hey, here's a better idea: Get the government out of it, completely, because I've got some bad news for you; you aren't going to instill anything in them that causes them to make a right choice unless there are parents at home reinforcing those choices. We've pretty much ensured that isn't happening by removing blame, shame, competition and discipline from our toolbox and replacing it with entitlement and narcissism. Better to save the money for a rainy day then attempt to subvert a message that is wasted on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, Kim Brannagan, R.N., associate professor at Loyola University New Orleans, amplified Bill’s frustration with our lawmakers:
I am outraged at this information. As a volunteer on the Health and Nutrition Committee for the parish in which I live, I have learned firsthand the battles that health advocates face in the school systems. I completely agree with every point you have made. We cannot keep passing the buck on the health of our country. As a government, we have a responsibility to educate our children. While much of our learning takes place at home, kids still spend a great deal of time at school and with school-related activities. Parents often do not provide the best modeling for children (for many reasons — financial, lack of knowledge, personal experiences, lack of concern, etc.) and that cannot be controlled. What can and should be controlled is the modeling that we do as leaders in our government, schools, health care systems, etc. In health care we have a plethora of research that shows a direct correlation between a healthful diet and physical activity AND physical development, academic success, productivity, happiness, well-being, health, and more. So, WHY would we put our children and our country at a disadvantage by not providing these things in our schools? Today, when kids graduate from high school, they have to “UNLEARN” the UNHEALTHFUL behaviors that they learned during their 12 to 13 years in our school systems. If they don’t, the price is paid by their employers or the government through the health care services. So, is it worth not spending the extra money and time on healthful foods and proper physical activity when kids are young? It is a lot more expensive to UNDO this damage than it is to pay for it up front. Not to mention, it is the RIGHT thing to do. This is a crime and I, like you, do not understand why we do not consider healthy foods and proper physical activity part of “educating” our children to be productive citizens in our country!
Regular columnist Joe Flower took aim at the proliferation of new technology permeating health care, noting that it will only lower costs if it brings value to patients. Patrick Linton enjoyed Joe’s commentary:
As usual, Joe Flower does a great job of stepping up to a higher level seeking a different perspective from which to ask the thoughtful, probing questions that need to be asked and that few rarely do. The accelerated technology rush of today's health care environment is indeed very costly and complex, and it does all take place within the massive infrastructure of the modern health care system. But I invite you to go higher and deeper to gain an even larger perspective that even fewer care to do. All of this new technology and massive, complex infrastructure is totally, utterly dependent upon the continued functioning and growth of the energy system, financial system, global economic system, just-in-time supply chains, and other hub systems in today's complex, interconnected world. And all of these are hitting natural limits with diminishing, even negative, returns everywhere you look. As captivating as technology is, it will not define any future in healthcare that is grounded in reality. The fundamental conditions necessary to sustain our modern way of life are eroding and deteriorating beneath our feet. The future will not be a technotopia.
Emily Friedman penned an interesting perspective on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and its impact on hospitals. Wayne Lerner commented:
Thanks, Emily, for another thought-provoking article. Let us not forget, however, that segregation exists in many forms yet today. While focusing on one's color is the most obvious, there is still overt and latent prejudice in our society and, yes, in our health care organizations. People of various religions, ethnic backgrounds, immigrants (legal as well as undocumented), the poor (regardless of color), those who identify themselves as LGBT and individuals with disabilities can still find themselves receiving separate but certainly not equal treatment or services.
Perhaps, with the next generation of leadership in governance and management in place and clinicians and staff who have been educated to see the patient as a person and not a label, we can finally realize the fruits of so many people's labors.
Staff Writer Marty Stempniak’s coverage of the National Patient Safety Foundation Congress drew some interesting letters as well. Including his blog about helping physicians avoid burnout. Alan Rosenstein agreed that it is an important topic:
Couldn't agree more about the concerns about the ill effects of stress and burnout. Our approach is to reach out to physicians and help them before bad things happen. Physicians just want to do their job and provide the best patient care. Unfortunately, the stresses in today's health care environment often get in the way. For many reasons, physicians are reluctant to seek outside help … .
And Elizabeth Scala had this to say:
So glad that you are sharing the research to back the much-needed practice. We are so good at giving that it is time to balance the caring we do for others with that which we give ourselves. Thank you for a wonderful article; sharing on my social media.
With that, it is time to close up the mailbag until next month. As always, we encourage your feedback. Please comment in the box directly below each article.