While editorial writer Greg Neiman made two valid points on cutting health-care costs, he missed the most important one — prevention. Blaming baby boomers for rising health-care cost may be shortsighted. Most of them are relatively healthy. The real danger to medicare will come from the approximately 50 per cent of the Canadian population that is either overweight or obese. High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and premature death will cost billions in direct costs ( to health care) and billions in indirect costs to productivity (time off work).
We have laws that try to save lives — seat belt, smoking and alcohol laws, for example. You might ask yourself, why was this necessary? By extension, we need a law taxing junk food. Quebec and B.C. are considering such taxes, as is France. Romania has just legislated a 20 per cent tax. The proceeds of junk food taxes could be used by our health-care system. When you can buy 24 cans of cola in Red Deer for $3.77 and a carton of orange juice for about the same amount, you can appreciate the nature of the problem. Studies from the U.S.A. have shown that increasing the cost of junk food was more effective and practical than lowering the cost of healthy food.
In conjunction with a junk food tax, we need legislation restricting the advertising of such products, especially to children. McDonald’s and Coca Cola both spend over $1 billion each year on marketing. Our government spends billions on biomedical research to treat disease, but virtually nothing to improve our diets. It is time to place health above the marketplace.