U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa believes that the health of the nation is not a partisan problem—it's an American problem. He talks with Dr. Oz about ways to change the way the nation approaches health and what Americans can do on a local level to make a change.
For several years, Senator Harkin says he has been working to pass the Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention (HeLP) America Act, which seeks to change the focus of the country's healthcare system from treatment to prevention. With an estimated 75 percent of the system's money going toward treating chronic illnesses, Senator Harkin says he wants to see more incentives for being healthy. "Why is there no wellness society where everything is geared towards health and keeping you healthy?" he asks. "We should be building a system where people have good nutrition, good exercise and everything they need to help stay healthy in the first place."
Senator Harkin says his bill promoting a healthy society has come up against several obstacles. Other politicians are supportive, but they aren't willing to spend the money required to make the changes outlined in the bill, he says. Also, food manufacturers and the advertising industry make a lot of money promoting unhealthy foods—especially to kids—and Senator Harkin says they don't want to see changes that could cut into their profits. Senator Harkin says parents—specifically those who want to see better food and exercise choices for their kids in schools and their communities—are the key to getting this type of legislation passed.
Senator Harkin says he's not proposing that the government oversee what we eat—he just wants to see better options. "It ought to be easier to be healthy than unhealthy, and that's not the case right now," he says. "I believe in individual responsibility but also in government responsibility and corporate responsibility."
Published on June 08, 2007