THE BLOG
04/08/2016 05:05 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2016

We Can't Have It Both Ways

One of the many comments I hear in our work to institute policies that work to protect the public is that people want it both ways. They operate from a place of convenience or profitability -- fast food, environmental degradation, predatory marketing -- and yet vilify efforts to protect human health as being "too much government." It may be a snappy sound-bite, but the opposite is true. There are no stronger handcuffs than ones disguised as profitability. When a company profits by doing things like polluting our waterways or air, who do you think pays? When we have children using indoor tanning and as a result getting deadly cancers, who do you think pays?

We pay we all pay; we pay economically, and we pay in our health.

We live in a country in which, even with all our advances, we cannot trust our food and water supply.

Despite making progress on cancer prevention since our founding, we now know enough to understand we need more resources. It should never be an option in the United States to provide polluted water and compromised food especially to our children. Our job is to keep the issues out in front of policy makers and do what we can to help raise the bar on human health.

There is a lot of evidenced-based science out there today that indicates that up to half of all cancer is preventable.

As adults, we need to work to take the wheel of our lives to make ourselves healthier, and as a greater community, we need to do the things we know we can to protect the public and help each other stay healthy. We need to help each other stay healthy because not everyone can do it alone. We also know that especially the poor have much less ability to protect themselves as we have seen in Flint, Michigan. Cancer prevention is not about waiting for more complex science; often it is simply about human consideration.

As a country, we rightly spend our time and money on national security and preventing the next 9/11. I argue that we need that same effort to prevent a health disaster.

We face an unprecedented health crisis, across many issues: increases in obesity, diabetes, asthma, and cancer. And there are many culprits: We cannot continue to produce foods that make and keep people sick. We cannot continue to pollute our waterways and not expect illness. Today we have an astounding 16 million+ Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including nearly 42,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.

It can be different; we can advocate for ourselves, our families and our communities. Real change will come when we as a nation realize we cannot have it both ways and need to invest in prevention.

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