No Matter What, We Pay For Others’ Bad Habits
Who wrote this? Sandeep Jauhar? Major props!
The person in the article who said, "I’m tired of paying for everyone else’s stupidity," doesn't understand that we are already paying for other people's health problems in the form of higher health insurance premiums and higher medical costs.
About that "stupidity" part ... The person who said this also doesn't understand that you can't judge an individual apart from their environment. If what we see is stupidity, it is more a reflection of our country's stupidity, the stupidity of the choices of the population as a whole, than it is the conscious choices of a particular individual. This focus on the individual is simplistic, short-sighted, and deflects responsibility away from the person who thinks it.
Here are excerpts of the article that I whimpered joyfully when I read:
"When people advocate the need for personal accountability, they presuppose more control over health and sickness than really exists.""The context of people's lives." Whoever said this gets it. I'll admit, it took years of public health education and working for me to get it. I used to think ... "This person is overweight because they choose to eat too much." Of course I believe that an individual bears responsibility for their health. Of course I do. But I've come to understand that the wider context - a person's social, cultural, economic, religious, political, historical setting is more influential. You cannot ignore these effects.
"Unhealthy habits are one factor in disease, but so are social status, income, family dynamics, education and genetics."
" "It’s the context of people’s lives that determines their health,” said a World Health Organization report on health disparities. “So blaming individuals for poor health or crediting them for good health is inappropriate.” "
My favorite analogy is ... if you pluck an overweight someone from a rich suburb in 21st century US and place him in 1960 rural China or in areas of Sudan and Chad right now, he will likely lose weight. Conversely if you move an underweight someone from war-torn Sudan and place him in a rich suburb here, he will likely gain weight. Changes in a person's health - both detrimental and advantageous - when they relocate to places unlike their origins have been documented.
Before you can blame an individual for their choices, you have to make sure they have the same choices as everyone else.
The conversation is ongoing at the NYTs Well blog: Paying For The Bad Habits Of Others