Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vote for the low-fat President!

As you reflect on the events in Denver and Saint Paul, you will make the decision to support one candidate or the other. Over the coming weeks, you will hear commentaries from news analysts and pundits about the fitness of nominees for the Presidency and you will thoughtfully consider who endorses whom.

To assist you, I provide my endorsement – who I think should serve as the next President.

It is the “low-fat, total coverage, high-achievement, invest early” candidate.

Low-fat. The data are compelling. The U.S., and some of the other developed countries, face a public health issue like never before. The obesity rate among U.S. adults has more than doubled since 1990 to 25 percent. Diabetes, the sixth leading cause of death, is also rising quickly. Obesity and diabetes cost money and lives. All of us suffer, if not directly, then indirectly through the extra expenses we pay for health care and health insurance and the extra pain we endure because of loved ones who suffer chronic illnesses and premature death. Chronic diseases resulting from obesity are largely preventable. Which candidates know what we need to do and have made a realistic, believable commitment to doing it?

Total coverage. I’ve lived and worked in countries with universal health coverage for all of their citizens. The United States, with all its wealth, has no excuse to allow its residents to lack health insurance. Getting everyone covered requires cutting through political and economic obstacles, but it can happen with bold, enlightened leadership. Which candidates know what we need to do and have made a realistic, believable commitment to doing it?

High achievement. Skills we need to sustain a strong workforce exist in too short supply among our younger population. In Minnesota,, more than 20 percent of third graders fall below reading proficiency standards, and a whopping 68 percent of eleventh graders fail to meet proficiency standards in math. Many factors have produced this situation; solutions may seem daunting. Nonetheless, we must start by working with school districts, teacher education programs and teacher unions, families, and nonprofit organizations, within our communities, if we want to move educational achievement for all children in a more positive direction. Which candidates know what we need to do and have made a realistic, believable commitment to doing it?

Invest early. (This does not mean spend more money.) We must focus attention on how to support the best possible growth and development for children. Everything I’ve mentioned above will improve if we start early. Better health early in life sets children on a lifelong path of better health. Good health care early in life prevents problems and reduces costs. High achievement in the early years increases the likelihood of continued achievement, which extends beyond a single individual to later generations. The economic argument, the return on investment for providing good child care (by families themselves or by others), health services, and high quality education to young people becomes a more convincing argument every day as we see new research evidence. Which candidates know what we need to do and have made a realistic, believable commitment to doing it?

I hope that you use these criteria, along with other criteria that you consider important, to assess the candidates – not just for President, but in any races in your district: Senate; House; etc. Now is the time to put our candidates on the line for commitments which transcend party politics and make good sense if we want to address some of the most significant challenges we face.


Anonymous said...

Amen! Thanks, Paul.

Anonymous said...

Re: early childhood development you mention as our best investment..let's bring the strong, coalition message of the Mn Initiatives Foundations back to the metro area, pair it with the Wilder report data on what is and isn't happening in early home-based education and jumpstart more public support for early childhood development. how about a billboard message to state lawmakers: (picture of soapy, happy baby in a bathtub)"Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater...fund early childhood development" In this budget climate we need a strong message and leadership support across sectors. Kate Mortenson