Friday, June 28, 2013

Cultural Change Can Be A Good Think If It Makes Our Lives Better.

Culture is the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Today, in the United States as in other countries populated largely by immigrants, the culture is influenced by the many groups of people that now make up the country.
I believe that not only do cultures change all the time, but that we should change cultures to make them work better for the people that they serve. While I am uncomfortable with people from one culture seeking to change another culture, even if the intent is noble, I think people within a culture have every right to try to change their own culture -- they own (at least temporarily). Lets think about the ideas.

The United States shows up tied for 33rd among countries in life expectancy. Thus it should be perfectly possible to help Americans to live longer, healthier lives. That might be an objective for cultural change. (Of course, there might be many other competing or complementary objectives, such as improving educational outcomes, or making us a more generous and thoughtful people.)

I could provide a more detailed description of the health problems that could and should be addressed. It would be useful to do so because different health problems have different causes in our culture, and some lesser health problems would yield to such simple cultural changes as to be "cost-effective" alternatives to attack.

Why are American health outcomes so poor as compared with those of other countries? I suggest several main reasons:
  • Food and exercise habits that produce too many obese and overweight people.
  • Lack of health literacy in the population.
  • Lack of access to curative health services for a large portion of the population.
  • Lack of technology to deal with cancer and other major causes of mortality.
So we want to change several aspects of culture:
  • What people eat and where they get their food;
  • How much people exercise.
  • What people learn about health, where and how they learn it, and how much they learn.
  • How diagnostic and  curative health services are offered, used and financed.
  • The amount of biomedical research that is done and the medical technology importation.
These changes would suggest changes in agricultural, food marketing, educational, medical and research institutions. Ultimately there would be necessary changes in economic and political institutions necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of helping people to live longer, healthier lives.

No comments: