We are #1- and not proud of it. As the daily data rolls in the United States has seized the top spot in the number of COVID cases and number of deaths. This odious position has been attributed to reasons such as the large amount of testing being done, or cases being discovered, or cases and deaths from other causes attribute to COVID. Then of course there are the political explanations: we weren't prepared, didn't act soon enough, did not have enough equipment, poor communication across our healthcare system, and the list goes on.
But maybe there is another explanation- we are just not a healthy society.
Our healthcare dollar expenditure is double the average of the other wealthy countries and yet when it comes to the incidence of chronic disease and early death, we are also near the top. We spend more and get less- and it is getting worse. The growth and spread of chronic disease is an epidemic that dwarfs COVID and has been not been adequately addressed.
This pandemic must be a wake up call to recognize and reverse this trend and take steps to restore our health. This wake up call is for each of us. We cannot wait for national and local government or healthcare systems to take action.
In a recent interview on the Bill Maher show, public health doctor David Katz suggested that COVID was two diseases. One expresses itself in the aged, sick, and those with other chronic illnesses, producing severe illness and high death rates. The other affects healthier parts of our population, with often little or no symptoms.
Those other illnesses are called comorbidities. Comorbidities are the hidden epidemic of our society. They shorten lives and reduce performance and potential. And even more alarming they are beginning to appear earlier and earlier in life. Teen and pre-teens now have high blood pressure and type !! diabetes and other diseases at an alarming rate.
We agree with Dr. Katz's statement that up to 80% of chronic health problems can be prevented or reversed with lifestyle changes such as better nutrition and sleep, more exercise, and improved stress management. We often fail to recognize this connection because risk factors present themselves so long before disease. Lifestyle risk factors in childhood may take years or even decades to develop into diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia or even cancer. COVID shows us the connection with frightening clarity.
The Foundation for Airway Health was created for you. We are here to raise awareness, to provide education and resources, and to advocate for wider access to care for airway/sleep problems and their companion lifestyle risks factors.
As the COVID curve begins to flatten and we are peeking our heads out from social distancing and isolation, let us also view the world, our health, and our healthcare system with new eyes. Let us realize we are responsible for taking charge of our health and the health of our families. It is our obligation to identify, avoid and intercept risk factors when they first appear. No child should have an unrecognized or untreated airway/sleep problem. All children should be educated about and afforded good nutrition and spend more time moving and exercising. Taking action today will be the strongest protection for the future health, security and well-being of our country. Are you up to the challenge?
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