Stand Up, Stand Up for Health

Yesterday, I had a random online encounter with a news headline suggesting that some researchers somewhere say that sitting is bad for your health. I didn’t click on any links, but the idea stayed with me. I went looking for the story today, and discovered that the research isn’t exactly new. Science Daily carried an item in June 2008 headlined “Physiologists and Microbiologists Find Link Between Sitting and Poor Health” (that story was based on University of Missouri research reported in November 2007). A similar item, based on similar research, appeared in the news a couple weeks ago. For instance, on Discovery News: “Too Much Sitting Creates a Health Hazard.” The gist: Long periods of sitting lead the body to shut down certain metabolic processes, and that can lead to weight gain, a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Ah, the power of suggestion. I’m painfully aware–really: painfully–of how much I sit in the course of my work and in various recreational noodling such as this blog. This morning, I contrived to bring the laptop out into the kitchen to a place where I can stand and work. I’m wondering whether I can get my workstation at KQED set up for standing, too (we had a guy in the office who had a standing desk; maybe his stuff is still around). Stand-up desks: not a new idea.

Health Care: Good Deficits, Bad Deficits

“There are no solutions, Bernstein–only the rearrangement of problems.”
David Mamet, ‘November’

Is the health-care debate a mess? It is. By which I mean it’s sure hard to keep up with the competing claims about what the pending legislation will do or won’t do. Yes, our leaders try to make things easy for us by declaring one set of ideas (theirs) good and another set (someone else’s) bad; the “someone else” in this equation returns fire in the same terms. It’s only certain at this point that nothing about the health-care system or the bills that may effect some changes in it is simply “good” or “bad.”

For me, “good” consists of two things: First, make health coverage universal. In a nation as wealthy as ours, no one should be without medical care. Second, ensure that health coverage is affordable for all. The devil, as they say, is in the details. The bill headed to the Senate floor is about 2,000 pages long. What all do you think is in there?

Rank speculation aside, one concern that lies outside my list of “good” or “bad” attributes of health-care legislation is the deficits they’d cause. This may be uncaring of me. I don’t want my kids and their kids to be paying for my colonoscopies, or for yours either. But I have to say that when I hear the opponents of the health-care bills screaming about deficits, it’s hard to take them seriously. Right down the line, these are the very same folks who thought nothing of committing the nation’s wealth to the Iraq war, deficits be damned. Some economists say that that little project will wind up costing us $1 trillion–the low estimate–before it’s all over. And although I think we can rest assured that the investment has been worthwhile for most Iraqis who survived our good intentions, I don’t think all that money has done a thing to make life better for the tens of millions of people here — a group double the population of Iraq, by the way — who make do without medical care.

So let’s see where the health-care legislation takes us. It may be far from perfect. but improvement, not perfection, is our goal. And if we mess it up on the first round, gee, it won’t be the first time. We’ll just have to go back and try to to better. That seems to be the only way this system of ours work.